Masses of tourists descended on Dorset this week, leading to a major incident being declared.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said tourists had defied advice to stay away and ‘descended’ on beaches, especially in Bournemouth and Sandbanks, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Council leader Vikki Slade said everyone was appalled at the scenes witnessed, with half-a-millions believed to have headed to the area on Thursday.

She added: “The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.

“We had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”

As more and more people arrived in the county, problems arose from illegal parking and gridlock on roads to littering and anti-social behaviour.

More than 550 parking fines were given out – the highest on record. Council officials reported receiving ‘widespread abuse and intimidation’ as they emptied overflowing rubbish bins on seafronts and in Bournemouth eight tonnes of waste was collected between the piers in one day.

Extra police patrols were brought in after reports of fights breaking out, overnight campers were sent packing and seafront rangers are now tasked with making more patrols.

Cllr Slade added: “We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now or to deal with the full range of problems associated with managing volumes of people like this. Please do not come.

We are not able to welcome you yet.” Dorset Police assistant chief constable Sam de Reya said these are unprecedented times, adding: “We are urging people to stay away from the area of Bournemouth beach and other Dorset beaches.

“The declaration of a major incident allows us to bring agencies together so we can take actions available to us to safeguard the public as much as possible.

“Clearly we are still in a public health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency services resources.

“We would therefore stress again that we are asking people to please stay away from the area.” Dorset Chamber chief executive Ian Girling said:

“The scenes on Bournemouth beach were absolutely disgraceful.

“Once again people completely disregarded messages to keep away although I believe there has been a worrying lack clarity from the government.

“It would have been common sense to ask people to remain in their home counties while we recover from the crisis and to give places like Dorset time to prepare to welcome visitors back.

“The contradictions and mixed messaging in government advice has clearly led to a general disregard of the rules by many people.

“A second spike would be absolutely devastating for businesses in Dorset and the UK, not to mention the personal cost and impact on the NHS. It is time for greater clarity with stronger messaging for the public, especially in the lead-up to so-called Super Saturday, July 4.

“I sincerely hope that we do not see a repeat of the chaotic scenes witnessed on Bournemouth beach on a wider scale on the opening weekend of July.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.