“A perfect storm is brewing”: Greens raise concerns over beach use on bank holiday weekend

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As the May bank holiday weekend approaches, Green Councillors representing city-centre seafront wards are raising concerns over the use of the beach as they anticipate a large number of visitors. 

Brunswick and Adelaide ward councillors have also emphasised that a sizeable increase in visitors could result in more litter on the beach which risks damaging local marine life.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty has stated that since the lockdown restrictions were modified, litter has already increased in the area.

Aside from the litter, Greens are stressing that further planning may also need to be done in order to properly manage any anti-social behaviour occurring on the seafront, as bars and restaurants serving alcohol remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Greens say that councillors of all parties should be looking at proactive measures that support safe social distancing measures, reduce the pile up of waste, and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

 Phélim Mac Cafferty, Green Councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide ward, said:

“As lockdown lifts and the weather warms, but without the venues for eating and drinking, use of our green spaces and beach is increasing. But we don’t yet have the measures in place that allow people to do so safely and in environmentally responsible ways. A perfect storm is brewing and we need to move quickly to have a strong response in place to protect our precious marine life.”

He emphasised the likelihood of environmental damage from litter and plastic waste:

“On top of this, Green councillors for Queens Park, Regency and Brunswick and Adelaide are seeing an increase in correspondence from residents concerned about plastic waste and litter being left on our beach, and the impact this has on our marine life. Surfers Against Sewage have documented litter levels on the beach during lockdown – and in the last few days – which reaffirms this.

We know too that further to a Green call for action, the City Council has pledged to tackle single-use plastic waste and this must apply now more than ever as the city is recovering. We now need to remember the damage plastics can make: a plastic straw – used just once before being thrown away – can take up to 600 years to degrade.”

Cllr Mac Cafferty also highlighted some of the proactive measures that the council could implement to avoid major issues:

“Working cross-party, and with marine organisations in the city, we believe there are some really proactive steps our council can take now to safeguard our residents battling Covid-19 and to take care of our beach, so that it can be enjoyed by all in weeks and months to come. This could include stronger messages, greater liaison with Sussex Police, reminding seafront businesses that plastics should be avoided, using our fining powers more to prevent littering, rapid installation of more bins, providing more tools to local community representatives with safe tidy-ups, and putting out more signage about fixed penalty notices for littering.

“Once again, as we work hard to bring down Covid-19, Greens also want to ensure that residents are not bounced from this health crisis straight into a worsening environmental crisis, too.”

Clare Rainey, Green Councillor for Queens Park ward, emphasised the importance of local open spaces for residents and following proper social distancing measures:

“Residents in Brighton and Hove, especially those living with only limited or no outside space at home, have really valued the open space we have in the city, such as the seafront, during lockdown.

“It is critical for residents’ health and well-being that the seafront can be used safely by everyone and does not become a stressful experience due to overcrowding and lack of attention to social distancing. Despite changes to government guidelines we ask people to continue to be mindful of social distancing, and to use our open spaces responsibly in terms of litter which is particularly damaging in a marine environment.

 She added that while Brighton prides itself on being a welcoming city to all, safety comes first:

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“Although Brighton and Hove generally welcomes all visitors, who help to make the city the vibrant and diverse place that it is, due to this unprecedented situation the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike currently needs to be the priority.”

Tom Druitt, Green Councillor for Regency ward, urges those planning a visit to the Brighton & Hove seafront this weekend to save their trip for a later and safer date:

“As lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted it’s understandable that people want to get out and about again and enjoy a day at the seaside, and after such a long period being holed up in our houses it’s something we can all empathise with. However our priority has to be to ensure the beach is safe, and we respectfully ask all those planning to travel to Brighton & Hove this weekend to leave it till later in the year when it is safer to do so.

“Many council services are not yet fully operational, and litter on the beach especially is both an environmental tragedy, as it gets washed into the sea; and a health hazard to others as the virus can stay on the surface of discarded waste for days. We would love to welcome people back to our city as soon as it is safe to do so, but now is not that time.”

Greens are also urging the public to follow the Surfers Against Sewage ‘Socially Responsible Beach Guide.’

Featured image: © Wikimedia Commons

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