Mayor of Devon town dubbed 'Chelsea-on-Sea' hits out at tourists

The invasion of ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’: Mayor of Salcombe hits out at ‘disrespectful’ tourists failing to socially distance as millions of staycationers continue to stream into Britain’s beauty spots

  • Thousands of tourists and second home owners have flocked back to Salcombe in Devon in past month
  • But town mayor claims tourists seem to ‘think they are in a bubble’ and don’t have to socially distance
  • Says it is ‘like August bank holiday weekend every day’ and ‘everybody is exhausted and overwhelmed’
  • Salcombe has population of 2,000 in the winter but this risen to about 25,000 after the lockdown ended

The mayor of an upmarket coastal town dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ has urged visitors to ‘show a bit of respect’ and follow social distancing rules after the normal population surged by 1,000 per cent amid a staycation boom. 

Thousands of tourists and second home owners flocked back to Salcombe in Devon from the moment the green light was given by the Government for people to go on holidays at the start of last month.

But town mayor Nikki Turnton said tourists seem to ‘think they are in a bubble’ and do not have to maintain social distancing with signs being ignored by a ‘minority who don’t think it counts because they are on holiday’.

She told the BBC: ‘It’s like August bank holiday weekend every day, everybody is exhausted and overwhelmed. The businesses need the customers but we would just like a bit of respect back for the town that they claim to love.’

Salcombe has a population of about 2,000 in the winter but this risen to about 25,000 after the lockdown ended on July 4, according to the council, which is causing problems for people trying to socially distance in the town.

It comes amid fears a fresh stampede of revellers to beauty spots as the country is set to be roasted by a ten-day heatwave, with nearly 20million Britons planning to go on a staycation holiday in the UK this year.

Tourists are expected to flock back to beaches across the country over the coming days as temperatures up to 99F (37C) sweep in from central Europe by the end of the week amid a level two heat warning.

A YouGov poll found 28 per cent of Britons plan to take a holiday in the UK this year – the equivalent of about 19million people – while only 9 per cent will go abroad and a further 49 per cent do not intend on holidaying.

Tourists flock to the seaside town of Salcombe in Devon yesterday which has previously been dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’

Tourists walk through the narrow streets of the Devon seaside town of Salcombe yesterday which has become very busy

Tourists walk through Salcombe in Devon yesterday, where the town mayor has urged tourists to show ‘a bit of respect’

Salcombe, pictured yesterday, has become overrun with tourists as fears rise of local lockdowns in staycation hotspots

A full car park at Salcombe is pictured yesterday as people continue to descend on the Devon town for a staycation

Tourists enjoy a trip out on a boat while visiting the seaside town of Salcombe yesterday which has been busy with tourists

With less foreign holidays taking place amid concern over Covid-19 restrictions, locals and business owners say the town, which is often known as a playground for rich Londoners, is heaving and busier than ever before.

And a series of striking photographs show how the social distancing has become difficult in the bustling town.

Staycation car hire meltdown: Holidaying Britons in frantic scramble to secure a vehicle as two-hour long queues form at offices

Holidaying Britons are in a frantic scramble to secure a hire car as more than 20million people head to beauty spots this year.

Britons are scrambling for staycation spots with campsites, B&Bs and holiday cottages booking up fast as tens of thousands of foreign stays were put on hold amid fears over a second wave of coronavirus.  

Tourists need hire cars to get to idyllic locations such as Cornwall or Kent, but have encountered frustrating two hours queues at offices and significant delays on customer service helplines leading to a deluge of complaints.

Europcar, a French firm that operates in 140 countries worldwide , has been swamped with angry customers on social media.

Andrea Tolley on Twitter said: ‘Appalling service, two hour wait at Kennington office on Friday – car we booked not available, I got a refund today for the upgrade diff, no communication and not a refund, your charged me for the privilege. Cust service sounded offended I questioned this. NEVER AGAIN.’

And Marcus Chaloner said: ‘At your branch in Kennington after being told yesterday at 4pm that I couldn’t pick up my car at Lewisham – after having to travel an hour to get here, it’s absolute chaos here – your own employees don’t know what’s going on. People have places to be, flights to catch.’

They include scenes on the narrow shopping streets and the picturesque harbour which are now packed with sun-seekers. The town council say the huge influx has also led to an increase in anti-social behaviour.

The spike in numbers has now raised fears of a ‘local lockdown’ similar to the one experienced in Leicester. 

Roger Lidstone, of Bowers Wines and Spirits in Salcombe, said: ‘Things have picked up a lot since the beginning of July. It has been busier than usual in July, which is not surprising as it is the first month since lockdown.

‘People want to get away. It is a difficult balancing act as Salcombe as a town needs the tourists, but it has caused problems, especially in the evenings with people drinking too much.

‘Social distancing in the streets is tricky and I don’t think it has been observed thoroughly. Without the tourists we wouldn’t survive though. It was extremely quiet but now it has gone totally the other way. 

‘They came back as soon as the lockdown was relaxed. We have a lot of second home owners who hadn’t been able to get to them, so they all came down. You cannot blame them, but who knows if it will lead to a local lockdown?

‘We have had very few cases in Devon compared to the rest of the UK, but with so many people around now, it could happen. Whatever happens, we will act accordingly.’

Anita Tildesley, who works for Salcombe Trading Company, said: ‘It’s much busier now and with a lot less people going abroad it seems a lot more people are visiting Devon.

‘I am happy to have some normality and be back open for business. I think if there has to be a local lockdown there will be. Time will tell. It is a legitimate concern that some have.

‘But it is a difficult balancing act, about welcoming tourists back but ensuring things don’t get any worse for those who live here.’

Salcombe town councillors say the influx in visitors has caused some issues, especially with people drinking. One, Caroline Bricknell, said: ‘It’s extremely busy, unfortunately some people are ruining it for everyone else. 

‘All holiday makers get tarred with the same brush which isn’t fair, some of the people who come here are great but what the others are doing is causing bad feelings in the town with local people.

Thousands of tourists and second home owners have flocked back to Salcombe, pictured yesterday, since July 4

The town in Devon, pictured yesterday, has been overrun with tourists since lodkwon restrictions were eased

Tourists enjoy the sunshine in the town of Salcombe yesterday which has became a staycation hotspot in recent weeks

People sit outside in Salcombe yesterday as daytrippers and tourists enjoy the sunshine in the Devon town

The local mayor said the town of Salcombe, pictured yesterday, is like ‘August bank holiday weekend every day’

Salcombe has a population of about 2,000 in the winter but this risen to about 25,000 after the lockdown ended

A signs calls for social distancing at the seaside town of Salcombe yesterday which has been overrun with tourists

People look at at the water in the seaside town of Salcombe yesterday where huge numbers of tourists are visiting

People sit outside in the sunshine to enjoy a drink as tourists flock to the seaside town of Salcombe yesterday

‘There have been problems, we were in our boat the other day and there were about 15 people in another boat and they were throwing bottles in the water and playing loud music.

‘It’s those that are running it unfortunately for our lovely holiday makers. It seems to be more problematic this year, I think because they can’t go to Spain or Ibiza or anything else.

‘This week would have been regatta week and that’s a huge event in Salcombe, that would have made us up to about 25k people but it’s cancelled, and will be even busier in town because people book from year to year.

‘It’s hard to get a booking for regatta week, people will come down to stay in the places they booked – they’ve been coming for years, it’s a big thing in Salcombe.

‘We’ll have them and everyone else unfortunately. It’s just something we have to sort out.’  

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