Dorset Council

Published: 21 May 2020

Dorset Council continues to ask people thinking of visiting Dorset’s seaside or beauty spots over the bank holiday weekend and half term to be considerate and think about the potential impact of any visit on Dorset’s communities.
Dorset currently has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country thanks to residents who have followed the Government’s ‘stay at home’ advice over the past few weeks. The council is asking people from other areas of the country not to visit at present as it risks spreading the virus to local communities. Dorset has a large older population and many people have underlying health conditions which make them more vulnerable to the virus.
The latest government guidelines prohibit people from staying overnight at any place that isn’t their main home. The council is reminding any potential visitors that they must not stay overnight – whether in cars, tents, motorhomes, camper vans, second homes or holiday accommodation right now.
The government has also said, “it is also important that everyone continues to act responsibly, as the large majority have done to date. The infection rate will increase if people begin to break these rules and, for example, mix in groups”.
For anyone considering a visit to the coast, the RNLI has said that lifeguards will not be on beaches and is advising people not to swim or take part in water sports.
Last weekend saw traffic levels across Dorset that were 40% lower than a usual May weekend. Generally, the numbers of people at beaches and beauty spots were manageable and most managed to maintain social distancing. However, there were issues in a number of areas including Lulworth, Portland and West Bexington with irresponsible behaviour by visitors such as illegal parking, littering and lack of social distancing. And sadly since the weekend, and with the good weather, the number of visitors to the county appears to be increasing significantly.
In response to the changing situation over the past week, Dorset Council is reopening some car parks and public toilets in key locations in time for the bank holiday weekend to help cope with demand. The usual charges will apply at these car parks.
The council also plans to re-open car parks at its country parks next week (Tuesday 26 May), as part of the phased re-opening of Dorset.
The council reserves the right to close or suspend any facilities if it is deemed that public health is in danger through visitors not following social distancing measures.
Parking payment methods
Dorset Council continues to encourage the use of contactless payment for parking via phone-call, text message or smartphone app as the safest way to avoid spread of the virus. However, in response to public requests, the council is reinstating cash and card payment methods for drivers who do not use a mobile phone.
Due to the required use of keypads at payment machines, visitors who choose to pay by cash or card do so at their own risk. People are strongly encouraged to wash their hands both before and after using the machines to lower the chance of infection.
Dorset Council’s Leader, Cllr Spencer Flower, said:
“Throughout the pandemic all councils have had to react to a rapidly changing situation, and our priority has always been to protect the health and wellbeing of Dorset residents above all else.
“We continue to ask visitors to Think Twice about coming to our county at this time.
“However, after closely monitoring what is happening at various locations around Dorset over the past week, we have taken the sensible, but very difficult, decision to adapt our approach in order to deal with emerging problems.
“There are no perfect solutions at this time of crisis. Striking the balance between looking after the safety and health of all our residents while discouraging the mass gathering of people at our many beautiful tourist destinations will remain difficult for the foreseeable future.
“I would like to thank town and parish councils for working with us on these arrangements. And I would particularly like to thank all Dorset residents for their patience and understanding. Dorset Council is working non-stop to rise to the challenge of COVID-19 and I remain incredibly proud of our efforts during these unprecedented times.”