Colleagues within UKBMF have posed a couple of interesting question regarding the looming start of the 2020 bathing season on 1 May. I have passed the questions on to colleagues in Defra, Tidy Britain Group and EA within England and I am awaiting answers. I understand that there is a high-level stakeholder meeting next week and hopefully we may get some guidance from that. To my mind issue around whether tests should commence, signage and dog bans be implemented etc. should be directed from a national level, albeit that you then at local level should have the final say as to whether to implement things like dog bans, while beaches are effectively closed to all but locals. Leaving it entirely to local discretion is a recipe for national confusion particular when the current restriction begin to be lifted.
A much bigger issue may develop when the lockdown begins to be relaxed and visitor inevitably start to return. Going from lockdown to normality over an as yet unspecified period with as yet unspecified checks and balances is going to take considerable local planning, management and control. It will also involve some careful consideration around issues like when it becomes appropriate to reintroduce life-guarding and when you switch from a please don’t visit to a please do visit mode in terms of marketing messages. Issues experienced all around the UK coast during the early phases of lockdown suggest that beaches and open coastal spaces are likely to be a particular draw to visitors, even whilst elements social distancing remains in place.
If you have any thoughts on the issues involved with the looming start of the bathing season, with the subsequent relaxation of current restrictions, or any other points that you wish to see raised with Defra or the Welsh Government or indeed anyone else regarding bathing waters, the bathing seasons or beach management then please let me know.