“It seemed like there were quite a lot of people from out of town": Reaction to busy South Shields seafront scenes

Businesses and residents have reacted to the busy weekend scenes at South Shields seafront, which saw police speaking to motorists and calls for people to stay local during the lockdown.

By Tommy Greene
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 5:45 pm

Police have urged visitors to ‘respect the rules’ as the weekend’s spell of unseasonably sunny weather appeared to result in high numbers of people flocking to the seafront for their daily exercise.

Officers were seen stopping cars in the Harbour Drive South car park and have since reiterated their message for those living outside of the borough to ‘stay local’ and not to head to the coast.

"There were thousands down there,” Marsden resident, Davey Phinn, said of the weekend numbers at the seafront.

Pleasure Beach stand workers Zara Sheeran (above, left) and Penny Smith (above, right); the South Shields seafront (below)

Mr Phinn regularly goes up to the area to exercise and walk his dog.

"I turned right back as soon as I saw there were so many people,” he added.

“I saw a couple of police officers down there. But what can they do, really? It’s very difficult for them to enforce the rules.”

But businesses along the seafront, a number of which have remained open since the exit from the first national lockdown last July, were largely appreciative of an unexpected rise in visitor numbers and the added custom that brought to the area.

“It was nice to see smiling faces again, if I’m honest,” said Zara Sheeran, who works operates a stand at the Pleasure Beach amusement park.

"It’s been hard for people being cooped up all this time – nearly 12 months now. So it’s understandable they’d want to get out to the coast and enjoy the nice weather.”

Penny Smith, who works at another Pleasure Beach stand, told The Gazette: “The weekend was really good for business – the more people are out and down at the beach, the busier we are.”

Ms Smith harbours concerns, however, that “no one will pay attention to the rules going forward if we keep seeing sunny weather.”

Meanwhile, Holly, who works at Scoop and Bean, said: “It seemed like there were quite a lot of people from out of town.

"Most people were fine in terms of observing the restrictions. One or two took things a bit negatively when asked to keep their distance and wear masks - but not many.”

Sally Sheeran, owner of the Blue Marlin fish and chips restaurant, which is currently running a takeaway service, said: "Although we looked very busy and we did have big queues, it's basically because people were spread out and were social distancing - which makes it look like there were a lot more people down there than there were.

"I wouldn't say it was any busier than we'd usually be on any day when the weather's good. Kids have been off school as well, so I imagine parents were wanting to make the most of the weather before they go back.

"When people take pictures of the promenade, it can look spectacularly busy - but the camera angle can play quite a big part in making it look that way.”

Ms Sheeran also said there appeared to be very few problems as a result of the weekend police presence.

"We saw the police outside our shop on a couple of occasions,” she added.

"But we have got queue barriers, perspex screens and signs in place. There was no gridlock and people were very patient. So they didn't really have any issue with us - there were no problems, as far as I'm aware.

"I think the majority of people down there were locals, just down on the promenade, enjoying the weather and getting their exercise - which they're perfectly entitled to do."

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