Leicester lockdown ‘a concern’ for Norfolk’s coastal towns

A one-way system is in place in Sheringham town centre.

A one-way system is in place in Sheringham town centre. Photo: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

With the north Norfolk coast a popular destination for Leicester day trippers and holidaymakers, the impact of a local lockdown in the East Midlands city could be sorely felt by the district’s newly-reopened seaside shops, caravan parks and catering establishments.

But, with towns such as Sheringham, Cromer and Wells already struggling to enforce social distancing measures, many residents and business oweners are becoming increasingly concerned about visitors travelling to the district from high risk parts of the country.

North Norfolk District Council leader Sarah Butikofer said that over the past few weeks, cleaning contractors Serco had dealt with a “phenomenal” amount of rubbish left in bins and on beaches in coastal towns, as well as unprecedented incidences of people lighting fires in woodland areas.

Safety measures put in place as part of a ‘You are Welcome’ scheme have attracted a mixed response from the public, with local people complaining that a one-way system in Sheringham town centre is unworkable.

MORE: 100 days of lockdown: Five people whose lives have changed

A team of NNDC social distancing co-ordinators have placed decals on pavements and outside shops, with the council instituting closer monitoring and more frequent cleaning of public toilets across the district.

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“We will also be installing hand sanitising stations in high footfall areas,” Mrs Butikofer explained. “As a council, we are doing everything possible to keep people safe.”

Visitors bringing their own food and drink and discarding takeaway packaging had been a challenge, she added, with a single high-tech sensor bin in Wells going from 60pc to 100pc capacity in the space of a 15 minute phone call.

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“Of course we have got a lot of people coming to the area because they can’t go abroad, and with cafes, bars and restaurants closed, we are getting that triple whammy effect of more people and more rubbish.

“I can understand why people are concerned about visitors, but we need to find a middle ground as we do have to get the economy going again, so we are working locally with everyone involved to do this as sensitively and safely as we can as, if our businesses go through a ‘three winters effect’, many of them won’t be here next year.”

Holiday Park hopes people in local lockdown will heed advice and stay at home

At Woodlands Caravan Park, at Upper Sheringham, staff are gearing up to open on Monday with safety measures including social distancing between touring tents and caravans, which will only be allowed to book if they have their own toilet and washing facilities.

Staff member Holly Youngman said online booking had been slower than expected, with reservations down on last year.

“We would normally be a lot busier at this time,” she said. “But I think people have possibly been put off by the fact that we haven’t been able to open some of our facilities like the leisure club.”

The park was awaiting advice on taking bookings from areas in local lockdown from the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (BHHPA), she added, but hoped that holidaymakers from places like Leicester would heed government advice and stay at home.

She said: “We have already checked and we have had a few bookings from Leicester, but they have all asked if they could cancel if necessary and we are hoping to get an update from the BHHPA advising us to refuse booking from those areas.”

Seaside towns ‘very vulnerable’

Chris Wright, whose family have run Sheringham hardware store Blyth and Wright for more than 100 years, felt people had become “a bit complacent” about the virus and hoped those from high risk areas would stay at home.

“We have seen a very noticeable number of daytrippers in the town over the last month and it’s always at the back of people’s minds that the virus hasn’t gone away and someone could come in who is a carrier,” he said. “Sheringham has always been a first port of call for people from Leicester and you can only hope they stay at home, but, at the same time, we have to do what we can to keep our staff safe and the general public have to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing.”

Mr Wright, who has kept his Station Road Shop open throughout the lockdown, said restrictions needed to be balanced with the need to keep local businesses afloat.

He added: “Sheringham is lucky that it is very isolated and perhaps less prone to the virus, but, like every seaside town with a large retirement population, we are very vulnerable.”

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