Cromer and Sheringham put ‘on lockdown’ amid safety fears
PUBLISHED: 06:57 20 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:01 21 August 2017
Fears over public safety led to large swathes of two of North Norfolk’s most popular seaside resorts being put on lockdown on what should have been one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Pubs and other town centre businesses in Cromer closed early on Saturday - at the end of the town’s annual carnival - following reports of disturbances in the town the night before.
The move coincided with the arrival of a group of travellers who set up camp in the town’s Runton Road car park.
Businesses in East Runton and Sheringham followed suit amid fears the trouble could spread.
Police have stepped up their patrols in the area in an effort to reassure the public, with chief constable Simon Bailey vowing that Norfolk police would do all they can to ensure people enjoyed the rest of the weekend.
He said it was “a great shame the conduct of the minority spoil it for the majority”.
The area’s MP Norman Lamb posted on Twitter to say he was “very concerned” by the incidents and would visit the town later today to speak to business people and the police.
“I want to try and establish the facts,” he said. “If it’s the case that local businesses and local people felt intimidated and anxious that’s not acceptable.
“It’s intolerable and we need to understand exactly what happened and ensure that anyone responsible for that sort of behaviour is brought to book.”
On Saturday night, the Wellington pub in Garden Street, Cromer, issued the following statement: “Due to the severity of events that have escalated in town last night (Friday), it is with regret that we have taken the decision for the safety of our staff and customers that The Welly will be closed this evening.”
And in a further update later that night, a spokesperson added: “We will not be opening our doors tomorrow! Hopefully normal service will resume on Monday!”
A local takeaway reported that a gang of 40 people stole beer after storming its premises.
The Blue Sky Cafe, based opposite the travellers’ makeshift camp in Runton Road, boarded up its premises after their new neighbours moved in.
A spokesperson, who blamed “unforeseen circumstances”, said: “First time in 10 years we have ever been forced to close the cafe during the summer season. Such a shame!”
Cromer Pier - one of North Norfolk’s biggest tourist attractions - apologised after being forced to close its theatre bar, despite entertaining a sold out audience, as police attempted to bring the situation under control with several marked and unmarked police vehicles patrolling along the coast.
A spokesperson for the pier said: “Apologies for any inconvenience whilst we support our local police in bringing a difficult situation in the town under control.”
The Red Lion also posted on Twitter to say they were closing early due to “local events”.
The local cinema turned its outside lights off to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.
Alex Hannah, assistant manager at Cromer’s Regal Movieplex Cinema, said: “We haven’t had any incidents here but customers have been calling to check we’re open. As soon as our last screenings went in we took precautions and turned outside lights off and we are advising our customers to be careful and try to get picked up from the cinema.
“We’ve heard a lot of police around town. As soon as we heard about the problems we phoned the non-emergency line and they gave us some really good advice.”
Bernie’s Bar in East Runton said on Facebook: “We are sad to say Bernie’s Bar is also on lockdown and shut along with Cromer and Sheringham. The band have gone home. We are all safe. Stay safe everyone.”
Morrisons supermarket closed its filling station at the bottom of Runton Road around 8pm on Saturday “to make sure our customers are safe”.
Anne Kemp, landlady at The White Horse Inn, also closed early. She added: “We were completely on lockdown. It was our decision and I have to say the police have been absolutely spot on. They checked what we are doing, checked if we would be staying open and said they’d be there to support us if we did.”
With few places open in town, a large group of people were spotted walking in the middle of the road from Runton Road to Seacroft caravan and campsite in Cromer.
However, police later blocked the entrance before the crowd were later seen leaving the site.
In nearby Sheringham, day one of a charity music festival, Unplugged by the Sea, being staged at the Crown pub, was brought to an abrupt end amid fears of trouble.
However, organisers are hopeful day two can go ahead as planned on Sunday.
A spokesperson said: “Thank you to everyone who came down and supported day one of UBTS2017! However, we can’t ignore the sad fact that we had to finish early this evening. This was a precautionary measure! There was no trouble during our event!
“We are so sad that you didn’t get to hear the wonderful sounds of Neil Cousin, Compass Moon and DJ Hagster but are already thinking of ways to rectify this.
“We are really looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow and hoping to raise even more money for SERV Norfolk!”
Speculation over the incidents was rife on social media, with some describing the town as “on lockdown”.
But Norfolk police moved to reassure residents, saying they had only been called to reports of low-level disorder on Saturday, including thefts from Morrisons and a pitch and putt course.
They said that reports on social media of a stabbing were not true.
A spokesperson said: “We have additional resources in Cromer tonight following reports of low-level disorder earlier today. We are aware licensees of local pubs have taken the decision to close this evening and we will have additional officers on patrol to provide reassurance to the local community.
“We are also aware of mentions on social media relating to a stabbing in the town tonight - we can confirm no such incident has been reported to us.”