POWERS are urgently needed to implement a local lockdown if coronavirus cases rise, a council leader has said.

Nancy Platts, head of Brighton and Hove City Council, said central Government must act quickly so local authorities can take action to protect citizens against the pandemic.

The Labour leader has issued a statement with another plea to residents from outside Brighton and Hove to stay away from the city, and in particular the seafront, after thousands headed to beaches and breached social distancing rules.

Cllr Platts said: “When skies are clear blue and temperatures are in the mid 20’s, it’s normally the time when Brighton and Hove loves to welcome visitors from around the world.

“But we are still nowhere near being back in normal times. 

The Argus: Crowds on Hove Lawns yesterdayCrowds on Hove Lawns yesterday

“Despite lockdown measures being eased, meaning people can travel to spend time at their favourite places to visit, we’re worried that the impact of this on popular visitor destinations like Brighton and Hove hasn’t been fully thought through.

“Because so many people love coming to our city, this potentially puts people’s safety at risk and could undo all the work to prevent Covid-19 spreading which was achieved during lockdown.

“We have several specific challenges in Brighton and Hove that we and the police are trying to manage, but in reality, our resources are limited and our powers few when it comes to the scale of the task. 

 “We need more powers from central government to be able to call and implement a local lockdown if we see cases of Covid-19 increase in the city.

“At the moment this is still being discussed in Whitehall but to be able to act quickly we need to be able to undertake the actions we feel best protect the people who live here and the NHS staff and key workers who work here.

“We need to hear from Government on this as a matter of urgency."

The Argus: A bather at Brighton beach todayA bather at Brighton beach today

The council has stewards in place at key points along the seafront who are trying to manage the numbers of people accessing the beach. 

On a number of occasions yesterday the stewards, working closely with the council's Seafront Team, closed access from the upper to lower promenade when the beaches became busy.

However, Cllr Platts said many of the city's residents who do not have their garden are still being denied access to public open spaces due to the numbers of people visiting from outside Brighton and Hove.

She said: "It’s incredibly upsetting to hear from people who live in the city, many of whom have no garden or balcony, that they can’t go to their local park or the seafront because they feel unsafe.

"If you love Brighton and Hove, please stay away for the time being. Protect our city; protect the people who make it such a special place.”

The council leader is also urging all beach-goers not to take risks and burden the emergency services further by drinking excessively and having accidents.

There were reports of adults urinating in front of children and people having to be helped off the beach after drinking too much or suffering with sunstroke.

The Argus: Bins were overflowing after thousands hit the beach yesterday and left piles of rubbishBins were overflowing after thousands hit the beach yesterday and left piles of rubbish

Cllr Platts said: “Some people have been overdoing it alcohol-wise on the seafront and behaviour has become unpleasant and dangerous.

“We’re doing everything within our powers to ensure seafront bars are not breaking the restrictions currently in place on the sale of food and drink, but we think the people who are overdoing it and who are drinking heavily may be bringing their own alcohol to the beach.

“Please don’t put pressure on our already stretched emergency services by drinking too much and needing medical attention.

“The police will be focusing their efforts on the central beaches that were problematic yesterday, but they of course still need to respond to emergencies and other calls for help across the city. Please don’t create another issue for them to deal with."

The council leader also reminded beach-goers the usual lifeguard service is not in operating currently, as the coronavirus crisis has caused a delay in recruiting lifeguards. 

She said: “People who do behave irresponsibly on the beach also put our Seafront Team at risk. 

“Lifeguards normally patrol the city’s beaches from the end of May until the end of September but the Covid-19 pandemic and physical distancing restrictions interrupted our usual recruitment drive.

“We would urge anyone going into the sea to take extreme care. The current is strong and the water is not as warm as it looks. 

“We’ve put signs up along the seafront to warn people about the dangers of mixing swimming and drinking alcohol.

"Please don’t take unnecessary risks that could put extra strain on emergency services at this difficult time."