IN an effort to tackle anti-social behaviour seen across the county last summer, Dorset Council has announced “robust plans” to manage an expected influx of visitors this season.
Dorset attracts about 3.6 million overnight visitors and 26.4 million day-visitors annually.
In June last year, travel restrictions had been relaxed but hotels, campsites and public toilets remained closed due to COVID-19.
Dorset’s most popular destinations became overcrowded and experienced problems with littering, illegal parking and outdoor toileting.
Spring and summer 2021 are likely to be very busy again, with ‘staycationers’ looking for a coastal retreat but possibly unable to travel abroad until later in the season.
Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “Tourism is a very important part of the Dorset economy and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back after what’s been a very tough year for our business community.
“However, the impact of so many people on our beaches and at beauty spots, towns and villages was disappointing last year when littering, illegal campers, forest fires and illegal parking and other anti-social behaviours became commonplace.
“We know how frustrating this was for some of our communities, and we share those feelings. That’s why we’re investing in an ambitious plan to help combat some of those behaviours.
“Using government funding provided for this purpose, we will employ more parking wardens, put in place more waste bins and collections, improved signage to warn of dangers of disposable BBQs and a possible ban on beach camping.”
Major incidents last year included hundreds of beach-goers being pushes together on a small section of Durdle Door beach as air ambulances had to land when several people were injured while ‘tombstoning’ off the cliffs.
Wareham Forest suffered mass destruction when a disposable barbecue that was not properly disposed of started a week-long heath fire.
And Lyme Regis saw an increase in anti-social behaviour and violent incidents over the summer months, resulting in the town council employing private security guards to patrol the seafront and public gardens, although there is no evidence this was caused by visitors.
Last year, the county also saw a significant increase in motorhome use and illegal camping, with people pitching up in lay-bys, on beaches and on private land, having campfires and leaving litter behind, often in highly protected areas of Dorset.
Tackling ‘undesirable incidents’
Dorset Council is part of a multi-agency group of partners including Dorset Police, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Dorset health partners and Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council, working together to tackle some of the more undesirable experiences from last year.
Cllr Bryan continued: “Dorset is a very special place and we want to protect it. Our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Coastline being just two internationally important designations.
“We have an opportunity this year to create a lasting legacy for Dorset to help strengthen our place in the UK as one of the most desirable places to visit.
“We can only do so much though, to influence individuals’ behaviour. We hope the measures we put in place will have a positive effect, but the responsibility is on the visitors themselves to behave with respect for the area they are visiting.”
Funding to put these additional measures in place has been given to all councils to help with these very issues, funding is not coming out of Dorset Council’s budget.
The council is also looking at innovative ideas like electric hot plate installations at key locations to deter the use of disposable BBQs known to cause devastating fires, and new tow-away areas in places where irresponsible parking is a problem.
The council is also working closely with landowners to open up properly managed additional camping and parking areas.