Four police officers were injured after hundreds of partygoers broke social distancing rules by descending on a beach in Romney Marsh, Kent, yesterday afternoon to attend an illegal rave.
The event’s organisers, from jerk chicken eatery Flavour Boss, based in Croydon, south London, today admitted that the party – for which they arranged three coaches to transport revellers down from London – had ‘got out of hand’.
The party, on Greatstone beach, started at around 3.30pm and came after plans for an unofficial ‘beach cookout’ on Sunday night in nearby Camber Sands, East Sussex, were foiled by police.
Families enjoying a day out on the beach were forced to leave due to the sheer volume of revellers failing to take any measures to protect themselves or those around them.
And Kent Police said a 29-year-old man from London was arrested following reports of an altercation at around 9pm in a car park near the beach. Four attending officers sustained injuries during the incident and were treated at the scene by the South East Coast Ambulance Service.
When the last of the partygoers finally departed, at around 10pm, they left litter – including plastic bags, drink cans and fast-food containers – strewn across a vast swathe of the beach.
Flavour Boss, which has denied the event was ‘illegal’, arranged transport to the Camber Sands rave for £27.54 per ticket, up until Friday – but it was re-arranged further along the coastline after details about the original secret location were leaked on social media.
The hosts hired three coaches from London – each with around 40 people on board – to take revellers to the Kent coast which were all sold out, according to Kent Online.
Two of the coaches are understood to have travelled from Watford, in Hertfordshire – and one resident claimed that a bus owned by a London borough council had also been used as transportation. Images taken inside one of the coaches show partygoers not wearing any masks.
Flavour Boss director Orette Williams said the money was to cover the three coach-loads of people who attended the event and the company gave out food free of charge.
The event – advertised online as taking place at a ‘secret beach location’ – was attended by police and ambulance crews. One witness described seeing officers in riot gear.
Under current government Covid-19 guidelines, it is against the law to hold a gathering of more than 30 people without permission from the local authority and police.
Mr Williams said he was given permission for the event but it was withdrawn 48 hours beforehand after police found out that coach-loads of people would be attending.
‘It did get a bit out of hand, with regards to the social distancing,’ he said.
He added that he had been given ‘mixed signals’ by Folkstone and Hythe District Council, which he said gave permission for a gathering that followed social distancing rules.
‘We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. What was I going to do? I was going to lose £2,000 on the coaches,’ he said.
‘We don’t host illegal gatherings, we did not break the law – the police knew this event was taking place. They were there from the start.’
However, Cllr David Monk, Leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, said today: ‘This gathering was arranged at short notice with the details withheld from us and police colleagues.
‘There were no mixed signals. No permission was granted by the council for this gathering or for the use of its land. The council was not in direct contact with the organiser before the event took place.
‘The sheer amount of rubbish left behind is disgusting. Our waste crews have been on site all morning and continue to work hard to clean the area. We would also like to thank members of the local community for mucking in to help clean up.
‘We’ve already made contact with the organiser to discuss the consequences of this gathering and we are considering legal action.’
The Camber Sands event was described as ‘private’ with no alcohol or food being sold, and the first release of ‘coach tickets’ sold out, according to Kent Live.
Rother Police confirmed that permission to hold the East Sussex rave had not been granted.
One beach-goer said: ‘It was enough to force me and family, as well as other families off the beach, no social distancing.’
Meanwhile, a resident told Kent Online they saw minibuses parked up, suggesting that party-goers used additional transport to attend.
And one witness said huge crowds remained on the beach past 10pm, adding: ‘Just come thru Greatstone, unbelievable scenes, chaos on the road, police everywhere… was good natured, it wasn’t a place for families.’
Wayne Williams, who works at the Flavour Boss jerk chicken shop in Croydon, told MailOnline: ‘The police asked us to pack up and end the event by 8.30pm. But because it would take about an hour for people to disperse, I actually sugggested 7.30pm to give people the chance to leave.’
A spokesperson from Kent Police told MailOnline today: ‘Kent Police is investigating a disturbance in Greatstone and reminding the public of their responsibility to keep a safe distance from one another to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
‘Officers were called to reports of a large gathering on Greatstone beach at around midday on Sunday 9 August. The event was pre-planned – however, Kent Police had not been made aware of the exact location until the group arrived.
‘Patrols attended the area where they engaged with a number of individuals throughout the day to explain and encourage compliance with the latest Government guidance and address reports of anti-social behaviour.
‘Those attending the location were asked to consider the wider community and their personal responsibilities in order to control the spread of the virus.’
‘At around 9pm, there was a report of an altercation in a nearby car park. Four attending officers sustained injuries during the incident and were treated at the scene by the South East Coast Ambulance Service. A 29-year-old man from London was arrested.’
A post on Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s Facebook page said police remained in the area on patrol throughout the evening.
It said: ‘We are aware of the large unauthorised gathering taking place at Greatstone beach. It is causing delays in the area so please bear this in mind if you have travel plans.
‘Kent Police is reminding those attending of the latest government advice around social distancing and encouraging them to adhere to it. Officers will remain in the area as part of their patrols.’