Opinion: Council leader Rick Everitt – Why we can’t tell people not to come to our beaches

District council leader Rick Everitt (Margate image John Horton)

On Sunday, May 10 around 30 million television viewers heard Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a major change in the government’s Covid-19 guidance.

From that Wednesday, he said: “We want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations.”

Here in Thanet we knew exactly what that would mean, and we had all of two days to work out what we could put in place to manage it.

At any other time, we’d be delighted at the prospect of thousands travelling to our beaches, and so would the many businesses and traders who make their living from our visitors.

In this situation it has created major logistical problems, because those businesses are not open and the normal preparations for the season have not been put in place, never mind extra ones to manage hygiene and social distancing in our public toilets.

The vast majority of people using our beaches in the last two weeks, wherever they happen to live, have been respectful of the public health guidance and of each other.

Inevitably, though, some have not. Some behaviour has been completely unacceptable, and the fact that we could not safely open all our coastal toilets has not helped. But the situation is unprecedented, as is the closure of the toilets in pubs, cafes and shops.

We’re well aware that some people have argued that Thanet District Council should have sent a stronger public message not to come here, but there are a number of reasons why we didn’t do that.

We’re not, like Scotland and Wales, a devolved administration. We don’t have the power to make – and more importantly, enforce – rules about travel or going out.

What we’ve tried to do throughout the crisis is work in harmony with national government, the county council and other agencies like the police, to make sure there are no mixed messages to the public. It’s been no time for politics.

We might have been able to communicate a local message to Thanet residents. Our chances of getting it across to communities outside the district and securing their cooperation are slim. Others have tried, without apparent success.

If people do choose to come here, they are simply going to point to the Prime Minister’s advice. And neither we, nor the police, can send them away.

Even suggesting that we, as a district council, have that power is to mislead our residents. It could also legitimise conflict between locals and visitors, which is not the right approach when our economy is so dependent on tourism.

Neither are we able to enforce social distancing. All we can do, as we have, is reinforce that messaging and be as clear as possible that even some basic facilities are currently unavailable. We have deployed extra resources where we can.

We know that some residents are very upset by what has happened on some of the beaches on busy days and we share that frustration. We opened toilets on the main beaches last Saturday and have worked hard to put more facilities in place for this weekend.

Ultimately, however, the decision to allow people to travel to beaches was made and announced at short notice by the government. We can all have a view about that, but the council’s job, along with the police and other public services, is to manage the effects as best we can – not to try to play King Canute. That didn’t work out too well for him, after all.


  1. Feeble defence and you said on this very website “we encourage people to our beautiful coastline”

    Other councils at least tried. Say “we don’t want you on our beaches” we want to keep our local people safe”

    Some people would listen.

    Instead we have people leaving human waste and fighting. Thanet is a laughing stock in national press.

    Devon and Cornwall at least warned people off and tried.

    Not good enough and we all demand better in the future. We will hold you all to account.

      • Councils in those areas. Areas all over the country have sent clear messages. Last week on this very website this same man said we welcome visitors. That was not helpful. He can Blame others all he likes – he played a part.

        • Thanks for the clarification. I’d very much like to see a link to Rick actually saying that visitors are welcome (as opposed to someone who says he said this), could you please supply a link?

          • It’s the link on related. Scroll up.

            14th May published

            “ At least one coastal authority in the South East responded earlier this week by asking visitors to stay away. Thanet does not want to take that position, but even if we did, it’s unlikely people across Kent and beyond in search of respite from the lockdown would pay much attention.

            In fact, we never want to be in the position of dissuading visitors from discovering the natural beauty and charm of our slice of the coastline.

            On the contrary, we want to showcase what our beaches have to offer, especially in an era when foreign travel is likely to remain difficult for some time. As and when the situation eases, we want visitors to see coming to Thanet as an attractive option.”

  2. Yes if some of the locals in their homes near the seafront had their way they would prefer no one came to the areas at all.
    They live in their own little world with most of them celebrating that Boris won the general election by chanting “let’s get Brexit Done” But now the same Boris does not have a clue on how to deal with the unlock from the lock down , he chants “ go to the parks and fight on the beaches” the locals can’t moan about their beloved Boris so they pick on the local council leader. That’s the sort of people they are, blame everyone else but not the clown who whose paid to run the circus oh no they can’t blame Boris because THEY put him there. Ha ha ha how frustrating for them.

    • Has the situation “eased” much? The R number is not much below 1.

      It is indeed the Government which has said it’s fine, now, to travel wherever you want. (Except to Wales or Scotland.) Not TDC, not even KCC.

    • And how obviously frustrating for you that he won the election with a large majority,and that Britain will be out of the EU by 1 January 2021 – hahaha…

  3. Blame boris not rick. Boris gave people the green light to go to beaches., not rick.

    • He posted on this very website – we welcome people to visit us. Boris is obviously making terrible decisions – hopefully we will hold him to account to but locally we needed to her the council leader standing up for us and saying we aren’t able to safely have you on our beaches. Toilets were closed it was a shambles.

      It might not have gone well for Kanute but at least he tried and we love a trier.

      Clear messages and stand up for Thanet.

    • So, knowing that, surely TDC should have opened all the toilets and provided soap! Herne Bay did! Hand Sanitiser just gets stolen, sadly.

  4. Is the government panicking a bit? We know that other European countries were hit before us but are now getting on top of the virus. Greece and Portugal have been particularly successful.

    So we should expect to have to wait a bit longer than those other countries before we are in a safe position to “open-up”.
    But it is almost as if the UK government is racing to end the lockdown as fast as other European countries when we aren’t in their safer position yet.
    In fact, we are the worst performing country in Europe and have a long way to go.
    This may explain why there has been these sudden new policies about travelling to the beaches etc when local authorities have hardly had any time to prepare. Perhaps Johnson wanted to appear “generous” to us by letting us travel as far as we liked-even as far as Durham- when ,in fact, our situation doesn’t really justify it.

  5. Once again Ramsgate gets forgotten! Rick Everett said toilets on the main beaches have been opened. Is Ramsgate not a main Thanet beach? It has the best loos in Thanet by the Pavilion and main sands. But Ramsgate toilets weren’t mentioned by Steve Albon on Radio Kent today as being opened. Come on, TDC, open ALL public beach toilets and have plenty of carbolic soap in them all. People carry their own hand sanitisers. That gets stolen anyway, sadly, so pointless providing it. I visited Herne Bay 2 weeks ago and their promenade toilets were open then. Why are TDC so slow in getting things sorted?

  6. It’s a shame Southern water can’t oblige us with a sewage leak , that would close all our beaches ! But I guess there’s plenty of sewage already left in the sand !

  7. There’s nothing stopping the council issuing fines for littering, pissing and shitting in public. The problem of antisocial behaviour is out of control in Thanet but the council chooses not to do anything about it when in reality there should be enforcement officers all over our beaches generating revenue from the disgusting lowlifes using our beaches as toilets and rubbish tips. Perhaps if people are forced to pay fines, Mamés and shamed then they might start showing respect.

  8. Very disingenuous to claim they only had 2 days notice. The lockdown was always going to end. From the week lockdown started TDC should have been planning how to safely reopen facilities when lockdown was eased. Instead they were asleep at the wheel and didn’t put anything in place which led to the chaos we have seen over the last fortnight.

    No strategic thinking or planning whatsoever. I can’t believe there isn’t anyone in that organisation who didn’t join the dots with lockdown being eased and hot weather being forecast and was genuinely surprised that the beaches were busy and the surrounding areas covered in excrement and urine.

    Blame everyone else. Typical TDC. Try reflecting for once and admitting you got this one totally wrong.

    • Well said. Everyone knew lockdown would end eventually and have plenty of time to plan. Couldn’t organise a p@@s up in a brewery. I really don’t understand what is so difficult. I think they are suffering from thanetist. Deadly!

  9. The clocktower bogs have been closed a year now and still not been repaired. Come on TDC get the workers on to it. Have you seen the queues at the other end of the beach. No wonder people are still doing it on the sand or on the prom. What an advert for Margate.

  10. As a Londoner whose family look forward to trips and occasional camping in Thanet I am pleased to hear that you are doing your best to accommodate those wishing to visit you again. I think the vast majority will understand that facilities will be limited initially and I am sure that will discourage greater numbers. We will come down next week for a picnic and not stop too long given pressure on toilets. So much better this than the offensive messages given to visitors to Cornwall and Devon. If I see signs telling me to go home or worse, I would choose to go somewhere else next time and may not hurry back.

  11. Going forward, why doesn’t everyone try and work together and stop the blame game, and look at new ways to do things? Contribute in any way you can. There is a big opportunity to do this just now. Delaying a so called lock down too long will cause huge damage in terms of mental health, general well-being and ability of people to take control of their lives again, loss to businesses and tourism in Thanet etc. etc. Countries and governments of all shades know this, and they are having to do similar.

    • “Going forward” in a positive way would spoil people’s fun.
      Many derive much entertainment through blaming TDC/KCC/Southern Water/(insert authority of your choice), so narrow are their lives

  12. Why does everyone completely get the King Canute story backwards? First Craig McKinley and Rick. Before using a reference it would be wise to read up on it first and not end up looking like a moron.

    • I said this, about Canute, months ago apropos some other article! It seems to be a common
      misunderstanding. (He’s Knut nowadays, and I expect he was then too, being Danish.)

  13. Is the council leader Rick everitt for real he wants to get out there and see it for himself. The more toilets we open up the more will come down for what I saw on the beaches it was disgusting leaving there rubbish for volunteers to pick up if we done that we would get fined.And if he was to go out and ask thanet residents about are they happy that people traveling down to our beaches to treat them like rubbish tips and park anywhere they can blocking peoples driveways I think I know what response he would get.also if they was to lock down more prone areas that was effected with the virus thousands and thousands of people that flock down to thanet coastlines who as far as we are concerned could be spreading the virus to us. We would be in lock down for ages and putting thanet residents and there families at risk. I’ve got neighbours who have been in lock down for months because there at high risk who can’t even go out and enjoy local areas and beautiful beaches. The Isle of thanet is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and the government at this unprecedented time should be ashamed of themselves for letting this happen.

  14. Second time commenting today about 2pm along margate main sands family’s who had come down by buses some of them were in groups of 20 to 30 people not at all social distancing and streams of people queing up for toilets and foodwhich should be closed so it doesn’t entice people to travel from far away. Then once the Isle of thanet is safe to visit again people can enjoy the amenities and facilities but not while covid 19 is still lurking its ugly head down this way.i even had to chase someone out of my garden who had opened my gate to urinate in my back garden absolutely disgraceful and its only going to get worse.

  15. Lots of people whinging about visitors to Margate;don’t you realize how LUCKY we are to live right by the sea?Peopel visiting here recently don’t,and after all the hassle of lockdown (would YOU like to have to self isolate in an urban tower block,or with your partner and multiple children on a city council estate) locals here should be more understanding about what others may have been putting up with for several weeks now,not just over a few days of hot weather.

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