Travel restrictions still apply this Easter - Stay Local

An Open Space Working Group comprising council officers from Roads Services, Sport, Countryside and Leisure, Countryside Rangers Service, Safer Communities Team, Protective Services, Planning Service, Communications and Police Scotland representatives has been established to consider and implement a range of measures to ensure continued public safety in East Lothian’s ‘open spaces’ as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

In 2020 East Lothian experienced record numbers of visitors to popular beauty spots including beaches, coastal towns and villages and some inland countryside sites. The increased visitor numbers also included periods of ‘lockdown’ when a number of access restrictions were in place.

On occasions the volume of visitors caused disruption to local communities by inconsiderate, unsafe or illegal parking; inappropriate use of countryside sites – lack of understanding of personal responsibilities under Scottish Access Code which included high numbers of ‘wild campers’, open fires, litter and human waste and uncertainty about social distancing requirements.

East Lothian Council’s Head of Infrastructure, Tom Reid, said: “In the most recent announcements by the First Minister regarding easing of restrictions the ‘stay at home’ regulations will be lifted on 2 April and replaced with guidance to ‘Stay Local’. This means that travel restrictions will continue to apply and people cannot travel out with their local authority area unless for essential reasons such as health care or work purposes.”

“It is important to remember that the Scottish Government plans on easing restrictions currently advise an aspiration that all restrictions on journeys in mainland Scotland may be lifted from 26 April. That is still a full month away and until this is confirmed we all still need to remain within our council area, exercise locally, not travel to other areas and keep to social distancing guidelines. We look forward to warmly welcoming visitors back when it is safe to do so. But at this time we’re afraid it’s not possible for people to travel into East Lothian for non-essential purposes.”

“The remit of the Working Group is to consider and put into place a range of measures to advise local residents and people from out with East Lothian tempted to visit beaches and other countryside sites about current guidance. Looking further ahead when restrictions ease further the council, in partnership with Police Scotland, will support local communities who previously experienced considerable disruption with the high volume of visitors by encouraging appropriate and safe parking. Our coastal towns are looking forward to welcoming visitors back but we also need to still recognise and respect current health guidance that is required to halt the spread of Covid infection and to ensure safety of both residents and visitors.”

Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell, Local Area Commander for East Lothian stated ”We are working with our partners to ensure of the safety of everyone and to minimise the disruption to the local community.  We will have additional officers from local and national departments on patrol engaging with visitors and residents and we ask everyone to please continue to follow the Scottish Government’s guidance in relation to Covid-19".

In line with the current ‘local lockdown’ requirements Scottish Government FACTS posters and lamppost wraps will be displayed at popular sites across the county prior to Easter weekend. In addition, new advisory signage will be added targeting those ‘wild camping’ and advising on fires and barbecues, littering and appropriate ‘toilet’ usage. The main theme is to reinforce a ‘leave no trace’ message. Countryside Rangers and Community Wardens will be present at popular coastal and inland countryside sites to advise visitors.

Regular reminders concerning restrictions and visitor advice will be posted on the council’s website and via social media including shared messages from Scottish Government and Police Scotland.

Published: Wednesday, 31st March 2021