Drone used by Portsmouth council to monitor people flocking to seafront

DRONES are being used by the council to monitor the number of people going to the seafront during lockdown.

By David George
Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 7:00 am

Concerns have been raised about people flocking to the seafront for exercise and takeaways.

While both are permitted under lockdown rules, the sheer number of people has made it ‘very difficult’ to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

At the weekend, Portsmouth City Council hired a drone to monitor the footfall, and is looking at what action needs to be taken to keep people safe.

Thousands of people made their way to Southsea seafront over the weekend, as they did at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 (pictured). Picture: Habibur Rahman

Footage obtained by the council showed thousands of people between South Parade Pier and Eastney, and while many are sticking to household bubbles, the concentration around coffee shops has been a cause for concern.

Read More

Read More
Six Gosport councillors could be axed as ward boundaries are reassessed

The News has asked the council for this drone footage.

Amid calls for restrictions to be tightened, council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson says it’s a catch-22 of obeying lockdown rules without damaging local businesses.

He said: ‘There is a growing concern about how things are operating on the seafront.

‘We hired a drone to get some footage at the weekend, so we can see what the numbers are actually like.

‘When I have been out, people have been gathering around in groups at takeaways – so we have to make sure that’s not happening, without hindering businesses in the process.’

Some people are calling for tighter restrictions around the seafront.

Current government statistics show 1,292 new coronavirus cases in Portsmouth over the past seven days, with Professor Chris Whitty saying the worst is yet to come for the UK.

The Tenth Hole and The Briny, in Southsea, and The Canteen, in Old Portsmouth all closed over the weekend due to concerns about excessive gatherings.

With Southsea car parks being full over the weekend, the council also closed part of the road between South Parade Pier and the war memorial.

Now, the council has marked three points of interest where the footfall is heaviest – outside South Parade Pier, Southsea Beach Cafe and the Coffee Cup in Eastney.

At South Parade Pier, people will be encouraged to queue along the promenade, rather than across it.

Outside Southsea Beach Cafe, signs will be put up to remind people not to gather in the area, and the council is considering putting wardens in the area too.

Near the Coffee Cup in Eastney, the benches will be removed to discourage loitering – and these won’t be returned until the end of the pandemic.

But Andrew Harvey, landlord of The Duke of Buckingham pub in Old Portsmouth, believes the council should go further with its enforcement.

He said: ‘I was on my way home on Saturday and all the car parks were full. Then when I passed the takeaway places there was at least 20 people queuing at each one, and more just sat or stood around in a Covid-19 melting pot.

‘People are meant to be out for essential activity only – not to make a day of going to the seafront.

‘I know everything is technically allowed but it’s so disheartening to see. People should make use of the area they live, not commute down to mingle with one another.’

The council has considered further road closures and even removing parking spaces, but has decided against this for the time being.

Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, has urged people to be responsible about leaving their homes.

‘Our local NHS is facing incredible pressures right now and those on the frontline are working incredibly hard to control the virus,’ he said.

‘If we don’t, we have already heard Government Ministers may impose further restrictions upon our communities.

‘Where we can, we must all stay home, protect our NHS and save lives.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘Exercise and takeaways are allowed, but please don’t travel for them.

‘Use your local area instead, we all have a part to play and it’s crucial that we adhere to the rules.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Portsmouth news online - as well as fewer adverts, access to our digital edition and mobile app.

Our trial offer starts at just £2 a month for the first two months.