The District Council has issued cautionary advice to beach users who are flocking to visit South Hams' beaches to enjoy the recent spell of sunny weather.
The high visitor numbers are causing a number of issues. Recently there have been occasions where the Council have become aware of large groups of people gathering together. They stress that Government guidelines for social distancing are still firmly in place and a distance of 2m should be maintained at all times for those outside of your household.
The area's beaches have seen a rapid rise in overflowing bins as large numbers of people picnic in the sand. The Council know that most visitors are responsible, however they urge those who are not, to be sensible if bins provided are full. Please take picnic waste home to dispose of properly.
Waste left around bins, classified as fly tipping, causes the likelihood of rubbish being blown into the sea causing pollution of the beautiful coastline and an increase in vermin and seagulls.
Toilets at the most popular beaches are open, alongside the Council's car parks and the Council want to ensure that residents and visitors alike are kept safe through social distancing, by regularly washing their hands and, where possible, using the RingGo app to avoid touching payment machines to further reduce the spread of the virus.
The Council are working as quickly as possible to reopen all toilets in a safe manner, however, where toilets have not yet reopened, the Council would expect that visitors would return home.
If visitors are taking their dogs to the beach, where allowed, please ensure that any dog poo is cleaned up and the bag safely deposited into a bin. If the bin is full, then please take this home as well and not leave it beside the bin.
With the terrible news of a number of lives lost on the water in the region over the past weekend, the District Council want to ensure that visitors are aware that there are currently no lifeguards on duty within the South Hams. Therefore visitors and especially families with children are encouraged to carefully follow guidance about water safety. Please take responsibility for the safety of family members and don't use inflatables in the sea.
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: "We are proud of our beaches in the South Hams and completely understand that visitors will want to visit them after so many weeks of lockdown, especially with the beautiful weather we're currently experiencing. However, we need to ask you all to take care as we all strive to get back to normal.
"When parking the car, visiting the toilets or just sitting on the beach, please do keep to the social distancing rules so we don't face a spike in the virus. If you carry a bag of picnic food to the beach and the bins have become over full, then please use that same bag to carry the rubbish back home for recycling.
"We're opening toilets as quickly as we possibly can in as safe a manner as possible. Please bear with us. If toilets near you aren't yet open, please return home or use the nearest open facilities.
"Finally, and very importantly, take care of your loved ones while there is no lifeguard cover on the beaches. There have been a few instances of tragic loss of life in the region over the recent week and we want to ensure these are not repeated. Please don't use inflatables, only swim, or surf, to your capabilities and watch children very carefully. If you're going out on a boat, make sure you have all safety precautions in place with properly fitting lifejackets and a kill cord attached.
"Take care and enjoy the beaches sensibly and safely."
Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, said: "If the charity's lifeguards were present on the beaches today, they would be preventing many incidents before they even occurred by directing people to safe swimming areas, highlighting dangers such as rip currents and advising people not to use inflatables. These preventive measures are not currently in place meaning people could find themselves in danger if they are not reading the signs and following the relevant safety advice.
"Our lifeguards are trained to swim 200m within 3 1/2 minutes, and although our volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, they won't be able to reach you in the same time.
"It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands that the beach can be a dangerous environment and you must take more responsibility for you and your family this summer. No one ever goes to the coast to be rescued yet RNLI lifeguards rescue 1000's each year."
For further information on Council services, please visit: www.southhams.gov.uk
If you're heading to the coast, take a look at the RNLI's advice and tips to help you have fun and stay safe: https://rnli.org/safety/beach-safety or for water activities, go to: https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity.
If you're planning to go out on a boat, make sure you know how to stay safe by visiting: www.rya.org.uk/knowledge-advice/safe-boating
Issued: 29 May 2020