Concerns raised over decision to keep South Shields seafront car parks open during Lockdown 3

A South Shields man has voiced concerns over the decision to keep foreshore car parks open during Lockdown 3.

Craig Barron, 48, harbours concerns that the move poses a public health risk while Covid infection rates in South Tyneside remain high.

He is one of a number of residents who have contacted The Gazette to express unease around the decision to keep the car parks open, arguing it encourages higher numbers of visitors to travel to the area and makes it difficult for walkers to maintain social distancing.

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South Tyneside Council chose to close the car parks during the first national lockdown last year, but has since reopened them – and kept them open while urging residents to act responsibly.

Littlehaven beach car park South Shields last summer. Picture by FRANK REIDLittlehaven beach car park South Shields last summer. Picture by FRANK REID
Littlehaven beach car park South Shields last summer. Picture by FRANK REID

"Since they've opened the car parks, footfall in the area has gone up massively,” he said.

"South Shields is open for business because the car parks are open.”

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Mr Barron says he has raised the issue with the local authority, but expressed frustration that the council had not changed its position on car parks remaining open in the area.

"For eight months or something like that, I've been talking to them about the problems down at the sea front,” he added.

"I defy anyone to tell me no one has caught the coronavirus at Shields foreshore. There are thousands and thousands of people walking within inches of each other down there.”

The borough council says it has worked to balance public health concerns with residents’ outdoor exercise needs.

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The local authority underlined in a statement this week that it has been following national guidance on this point and will continue to monitor concerns around keeping shorefront car parks open.

"We know how difficult the restrictions are for everyone, but we must all continue to work together to reduce the spread of coronavirus in our communities while the vaccination programme is rolled out,” Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said.

"The national restrictions require people to stay at home unless essential, and if they do go out for a permitted reason, such as for exercise, then they should always stay local.

"Although South Tyneside is a great place to live and visit and our coastline is beautiful, we are appealing for visitors to stay away at this time.”

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Cllr Gibson urged residents to exercise caution when choosing to walk along the seafront for exercise.

He said: "However, we appreciate that for many people local to the beach, a regular walk along the seafront can be good for body and mind.

"We need to take a balanced approach here and will continue to do all we can to support those local residents who choose to exercise on our foreshore, to do so safely.

"Meanwhile, we reiterate calls for people to stay at home as much as possible. If they choose to use the seafront, then this is down to individual choice.

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"We would urge people to be responsible and take the necessary measures to keep themselves and others safe. It is imperative that they respect the rules, particularly around social distancing."

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