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Mayor of Devon town dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ hits out at ‘disrespectful’ tourists

The mayor of an upmarket coastal town dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ has urged visitors to ‘show a bit of respect’ and follow social distancing rules after the normal population surged by 1,000 per cent amid a staycation boom. 

Thousands of tourists and second home owners flocked back to Salcombe in Devon from the moment the green light was given by the Government for people to go on holidays at the start of last month.

But town mayor Nikki Turton said tourists seem to ‘think they are in a bubble’ and do not have to maintain social distancing with signs being ignored by a ‘minority who don’t think it counts because they are on holiday’.

She told the BBC: ‘It’s like August bank holiday weekend every day, everybody is exhausted and overwhelmed. The businesses need the customers but we would just like a bit of respect back for the town that they claim to love.’

Salcombe has a population of about 2,000 in the winter but this risen to about 25,000 after the lockdown ended on July 4, according to the council, which is causing issues for people trying to socially distance in the town.

Ms Turton spoke out ten days ago, but the scale of the problems facing the resort became clear yesterday when a series of striking photographs were taken which show how many people are pouring into the bustling town. 

Local residents have complained on social media this week that the town has become a ‘war zone’ with ‘hoards of teenagers and others roaming around, drinking, smashing bottles, swearing and shouting at people’. 

It comes amid fears a fresh stampede of revellers to beauty spots as the country is set to be roasted by a ten-day heatwave, with nearly 20million Britons planning to go on a staycation holiday in the UK this year.

Tourists are expected to flock back to beaches across the country over the coming days as temperatures up to 99F (37C) sweep in from central Europe by the end of the week amid a level two heat warning.

A YouGov poll found 28 per cent of Britons plan to take a holiday in the UK this year – the equivalent of about 19million people – while only 9 per cent will go abroad and a further 49 per cent do not intend on holidaying.

Cornwall Council has slammed ‘ignorant’ tourists who descended on beauty spots without their face masks, with fears building in the county over a rise in coronavirus cases as people travel there for their holidays. 

Tourists in Salcombe today have spoken about their experience. 

Alison Moore, 61, of Oxford, said: ‘We have been coming to Salcombe for more than 30 years and the kids have grown up coming here every summer.

‘It is busy and is certainly different this year.

‘It has been quite difficult social distancing but it has not affected our week. We have still thoroughly enjoyed it

‘But we have seen a slightly different crowd though and a lot more younger people.

‘We have heard some stories about things happening that are not normally associated with Salcombe.

‘There have been fights that we have not witnessed but friends have told us they have.

‘A friend has a private slipway that their family have owned for years. They went there this morning and it was full of broken glasses and bottles.

‘There is a small minority ruining the atmosphere and it does taint it. But it doesn’t affect us and we still love the place. But it is probably the last year we will come in August for that type of reason.’

Alex Moore, 26, of Oxford, added: ‘ It does seem to have attracted a younger crowd this year. It is being sold as a destination for that so you can see why. It is maybe to do with people not being able to go to Spain.’

‘There was a bit of trouble with younger people in the bar. One guy was causing all kinds of problems as they weren’t allowed in due to social distancing and being too crowded. He wouldn’t leave and was kicking off.’

David Reeves, 60, of Knutsford, is on holiday in Dartmouth but came to Salcombe for the day.

He said: ‘We are down in Devon for the week and it is lovely to get away. Everyone has been reasonable and it is busy but it has been fine for us.’

A second home owner, known only as Liz, of Richmond-upon-Thames, said: ‘I was not down here when we were not allowed. It doesn’t feel as busy to me as me as normal summer.

‘It is fantastic to be back for two weeks. A small minority have not been behaving very sensibly but the vast majority are observing social distancing and enjoying themselves. I don’t really go out in the evening so don’t see much trouble.

‘I am disappointed that the press are being down on people coming away. Enjoying being by the sea is surely a healthy activity. It is great to see so many people down here again taking wonderful walks and enjoying the fresh air.’

Richard Powell, 40, was with partner Claire Hodgkins, 32, of Worcester, said: ‘We are here for two nights and then moving on to St Ives.

‘It is busy but does not seem unbearable. It is so nice to get away after lockdown. We have just arrived so it is too early to say too much about what it is like. But we are delighted to be here and everyone seems to be behaving.’

A Salcombe local tweeted yesterday: ‘We need police presence in Salcombe before someone gets really hurt. The town has turned into a free for all for teens in Salcombe town centre, with no one to stop them, and it’s getting dangerous.’

Another said: ‘Salcombe has become a war zone. Our beautiful town has hoards of teenagers and others roaming around, drinking, smashing bottles, swearing and shouting at people. We are scared to walk through our own town. Desperately need police support and street marshals.’

A third tweeted local MP Anthony Mangnal and Devon and Cornwall Police, saying: ‘Do you have any idea what hell Salcombe is this year with packs of roaming drunken yobs causing mayhem and violence in our town?? Why oh why are there no police patrols here and why so long to respond to calls?’

With less foreign holidays taking place amid concern over Covid-19 restrictions, locals and business owners say the town, which is often known as a playground for rich Londoners, is heaving and busier than ever before.

And a series of striking photographs show how the social distancing has become difficult in the bustling town.

They include scenes on the narrow shopping streets and the picturesque harbour which are now packed with sun-seekers. The town council say the huge influx has also led to an increase in anti-social behaviour.

The spike in numbers has now raised fears of a ‘local lockdown’ similar to the one experienced in Leicester. 

Roger Lidstone, of Bowers Wines and Spirits in Salcombe, said: ‘Things have picked up a lot since the beginning of July. It has been busier than usual in July, which is not surprising as it is the first month since lockdown.

‘People want to get away. It is a difficult balancing act as Salcombe as a town needs the tourists, but it has caused problems, especially in the evenings with people drinking too much.

‘Social distancing in the streets is tricky and I don’t think it has been observed thoroughly. Without the tourists we wouldn’t survive though. It was extremely quiet but now it has gone totally the other way. 

‘They came back as soon as the lockdown was relaxed. We have a lot of second home owners who hadn’t been able to get to them, so they all came down. You cannot blame them, but who knows if it will lead to a local lockdown?

‘We have had very few cases in Devon compared to the rest of the UK, but with so many people around now, it could happen. Whatever happens, we will act accordingly.’

Anita Tildesley, who works for Salcombe Trading Company, said: ‘It’s much busier now and with a lot less people going abroad it seems a lot more people are visiting Devon.

‘I am happy to have some normality and be back open for business. I think if there has to be a local lockdown there will be. Time will tell. It is a legitimate concern that some have.

‘But it is a difficult balancing act, about welcoming tourists back but ensuring things don’t get any worse for those who live here.’

Salcombe town councillors say the influx in visitors has caused some issues, especially with people drinking. One, Caroline Bricknell, said: ‘It’s extremely busy, unfortunately some people are ruining it for everyone else. 

‘All holiday makers get tarred with the same brush which isn’t fair, some of the people who come here are great but what the others are doing is causing bad feelings in the town with local people.

‘There have been problems, we were in our boat the other day and there were about 15 people in another boat and they were throwing bottles in the water and playing loud music.

‘It’s those that are running it unfortunately for our lovely holiday makers. It seems to be more problematic this year, I think because they can’t go to Spain or Ibiza or anything else.

‘This week would have been regatta week and that’s a huge event in Salcombe, that would have made us up to about 25k people but it’s cancelled, and will be even busier in town because people book from year to year.

‘It’s hard to get a booking for regatta week, people will come down to stay in the places they booked – they’ve been coming for years, it’s a big thing in Salcombe.

‘We’ll have them and everyone else unfortunately. It’s just something we have to sort out.’ 

Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes.

Meanwhile Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches – including the popular Margate’s Main Sands – due to the number of visitors.

And a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing.

Met Office forecaster Bonnie Diamond said: ‘There will be a warm spell across the UK but at the moment this hot weather will be focused in the south-east of England. 

‘At the minute and with high confidence, we are expecting 34C (93F) to 36C (97F) by Friday and Saturday.’

These high temperatures are the result of southerly winds moving from Europe and high pressure patterns that are set to kick in from around Thursday.

Ms Diamond said: ‘The pressure pattern is generally high, so in combination with the southerly winds and high pressure we get settled, sunny and hot weather.’

The high temperatures could trigger some thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday. 

It comes after temperatures reached 100F (37.8C) in London at 2.41pm on Friday, making it the third hottest day ever recorded in the UK.

The highest ever UK temperature, 101.7F (38.7C), was recorded in Cambridge University Botanic Garden on July 25, 2019. 

The second hottest day ever was a recorded at 101.3F (38.5C) in Faversham, Kent, on August 10, 2003.

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