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Norfolk seaside towns face 'catch-22' as lockdown restrictions are eased

Sea Palling beach, Norfolk

Seaside towns face a “catch-22” as they balance protecting their older residents with the need to support the tourism industry, a district councillor has warned.

Coastal visitor hotspots in North Norfolk, such as Sheringham and Cromer, are facing tough decisions over reopening facilities such as car parks and public toilets, due to the risks posed by visitors to the area’s elderly residents.

The warning came after North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) leader Sarah Butikofer warned cabinet members that the council may be unable to fly blue flags on its six accredited beaches this summer due to a lack of lifeguard cover from the RNLI.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Monday, May 18, she said lifeguard cover was being provided at Sea Palling and Cromer beaches, with another yet to be decided.

But she stressed the area was not yet open to visitors.

Speaking after the meeting, Angie Fitch-Tillett, cabinet member for coastal issues, said: “The RNLI said they would not provide lifeguard services because of social distancing. It is something I have concerns about.”

She added: “We’re in a bit of a catch-22 situation.

"Because of our elderly people, we’re discouraging visitors to come to the coast.

“If we said we’ll put lifeguards there everybody would want to come to the beach. If you close the car parks and those people are going to come anyway you’re clogging up the roads.

“Our businesses need visitors but the elderly residents don’t.”

Last week, the council said lifeguard cover on some beaches would be delayed or withdrawn, with warning safety flags missing.

North Norfolk normally has lifeguards on Sheringham, West Runton, East Runton, Cromer, Mundesley and Sea Palling beaches from Saturday, May 16.

Virginia Gay, cabinet member for culture and wellbeing, said: “I would urge beach users, especially parents, to be extra cautious.

“We must follow the anti-virus guidelines, but if we choose to use beaches for exercise we must all take responsibility for our safety.

“We must heed the warning signs advising us of local hazards, check tide time to avoid being cut off, and inform ourselves of weather conditions before setting out into, or onto, the sea.”

RNLI lifeboat stations are in operation and the charity has released water safety guidelines via its website: www.rnli.org/


By Jessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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