BEACHES across Sussex had a surge in visitor numbers today as sun-lovers made the most of their Bank Holiday Monday.

This included Brighton and Hove seafront, despite the introduction last week of new restrictions on the number of people who could visit the city’s beach.

The county has been treated to blue skies and warm weather, with temperatures predicted to top 20C throughout this week.

Argus readers in Bexhill, Birling Gap and Brighton and Hove have all reported that, as a result, beaches in their areas have been busy.

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One said: "The beach at Bexhill is rammed. There is a steady stream of people heading for the seafront.”

Another compared Birling Gap to Piccadilly Circus, advising people to avoid the area as they had seen groups flouting social distancing guidelines which ask people to stay at least two metres away from others not from their household.

In Brighton and Hove, the beach is currently under its fourth day of restricted access after the council received reports from its licensing team, Seafront Office and Sussex Police of “large gatherings, public nuisance, public urination and littering on our seafront”.

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A council spokeswoman said: “We have serious concerns that these issues are occurring during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

So the beach is now monitored with stewards stationed at entry and exit points from noon to 9pm each day between East Street and West Street “to encourage physical distancing and direct people to less busy parts of the seafront if the area becomes too busy”.

The stewards could be seen directing people today as they headed on to the beach, while several police officers are stationed on the promenade.

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Many people have set up shop on the pebbles to sunbathe, swim and enjoy the May heat.

Though previously forbidden, this is now allowed under updated lockdown rules which came into effect on March 13.

People may now go for a picnic, sunbathe and sit in public spaces so long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to.

Beach-goers are also allowed to swim, though lifeboat crews have asked those who choose to do so to be careful as the sea will be unsupervised.

Still, many chose to take advantage of the relaxed lockdown measures and took to the water to swim and paddleboard.

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The new measures also allow people to drive to public places for exercise or recreation.

But, this morning, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas urged people to steer clear of the city.

She said: “If you were thinking about visiting Brighton and Hove this bank holiday, please don’t.

“Our beautiful city would love to welcome you back as soon as it’s safe – but that’s not yet

“With so many services still closed and challenges with social distancing, it’s not business as usual.”

This came as a reinforcement to a statement issued last week by Councillor Carmen Appich, the council’s chairwoman for the tourism, equalities, communities and culture committee.

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She said: “We are used to catering for up to 11 million visitors each year and are renowned for the warm welcome we usually give to all our valued visitors.

“We are so proud of the city we share but to promote Brighton and Hove as a place to visit at this time would be utterly irresponsible and an insult to the NHS staff and frontline workers who have protected the whole county throughout this devastating crisis.

“We urge anyone thinking of travelling to the city at this time to consider very carefully how their journey will impact on others and what sort of experience they will have when they arrive, without access to the usual high standards of hospitality.

“Our priority is to keep residents and visitors to the city safe but don’t feel able to do this effectively at the moment.

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“To highlight this, we are writing to ministers to urge them to consider the effect their easing of lockdown restrictions is having on tourism hotspots like ours.

“We miss our visitors and are desperately looking forward to the day we can get back to being the welcoming and vibrant destination we’re best known for but right now it is not business as usual in Brighton and Hove.”

The council said the reopening of businesses on the seafront was “exacerbating” the problem of crowding and groups gathering in the area, especially on the lower promenade at King’s Road Arches.

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“This is also intensifying public nuisance, urination and littering issues,” a spokeswoman added.

“With this in mind, we’re taking action to address the problems we’re seeing.”

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. To donate visit