Calls to 'protect residents' as coastal areas brace for Easter rush

The busy Cromer beach on the hottest day of the summer so far. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cromer Beach was packed after lockdown was lifted last summer. People will have more freedom to move around again from March 29, but how far is too far?  - Credit: Denise Bradley

Coastal communities and other popular spots in north Norfolk are preparing to see a rise in visitor numbers, amid ongoing confusion over just how far people will be allowed to travel over the Easter break. 

Although from March 29 there will no longer be a 'stay at home' order people will still be obliged to 'stay local' and 'minimise travel'.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has tabled a written parliamentary question to Michael Gove's department asking for more clarity on the issue, but this has still not been answered. 

Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader, also called for firmer rules from the government because people had different ideas of what was "local".

She said: "It's extremely disappointing we haven't had more clear guidance. Last year we had people come from places like Lincolnshire and Peterborough to see the seals - they said they thought that was local when questioned."

Mrs Bütikofer said she thought a mileage or district boundary would be a good idea. She said she would not consider a trip from Norwich to the north Norfolk coast to be "local" but understood that others saw it differently.

Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council - Credit: North Norfolk District Council

She said: "We obviously want to welcome visitors, but it has to be in a controlled and sensible matter and in a way that doesn't put at risk the results we have achieved so far.

"As the first lockdown eased we had a lot of elderly residents who were more afraid to go out than they were during the lockdown because there were so many people about.

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"It's important that we protect the residents and our natural environment.

"I don't think Norwich to north Norfolk is local but that's a personal opinion. I would prefer to see people travelling a maximum of maybe 10 miles.

"But it is difficult because people do want to come to north Norfolk and see the sea again. We have to find a way to make it safe for everyone."

Dr Marie Strong, county councillor for Wells division, said visitors who were respectful of the rules and residents would be welcome there.

Marie Strong, Norfolk County Councillor for Wells. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Marie Strong, Norfolk County Councillor for Wells division.  - Credit: Liberal Democrats

Dr Strong said: "Shops will still closed be closed over Easter and I am told local traders think this is a good thing since visitors will not be congregating in the shops which has in the past been a problem.  

"However if visitors who are allowed under the regulations are simply enjoying the fresh air, say, walking to the beach but maintaining a distance from others, they will be welcome. Regulations or not this is common courtesy."

In January, Horsey Estate closed the car park it operates at Horsey Gap over concerns too many people were coming to the area from far away. 

Robin Buxton, from the estate, said things had now changed but they would continue to monitor the situation.

He said: "We should be fine now, but we will play it by ear."

Horsey Gap car park closed

Horsey Gap car park was closed due to the high number of out-of-county visitors travelling to the beauty spot - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

Outdoor sports venues such as golf courses, tennis courts and go-cart tracks are also allowed to reopen on March 29.

Kelvin van Hasselt, chairman of Cromer Tennis Club, said they would be happy to welcome people from other parts of Norfolk. 

Kelvin van Hasselt is passionate about retaining the all-weather courts at Cromer tennis and squash

Kelvin van Hasselt of Cromer tennis and squash club. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant


He said: “We’re here to serve the people of Norfolk. We’ve got very strict measures about not socialising, you sanitise your hands on arrival and strictly keep two metres apart. When you play on court, you don’t touch any surfaces.

“We just want people to enjoy exercise on the court.”

Holkham Estate is to reopen its Courtyard Cafe to takeaways, ropes course and cycle hire, and takeaways are already on offer at the Beach Cafe in Wells and at the nature reserve.

A spokesman said: "The safety of our staff, visitors and local community remain our priority and all visitors are asked to join us in following government guidance.

"As lockdown restrictions start to ease, we are delighted to be able to safely share our beach and parkland with our local visitors, who, after almost three months of lockdown, will appreciate and benefit from the wide open spaces on their doorstep.”

Norfolk Police have urged people to be cautious and sensible as to where they go as restrictions ease.

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