THOUSANDS of pounds were lost due to closed car parks as families descended on Southend, but council bosses insisted it is “worth it to save lives”. 

Martin Terry, councillor for community safety, stated the council would rather lose money than lose lives as seafront car parks remain closed to deter visitors. 

With drivers in queues and people being turned away at the weekend, Paul Thompson, owner of Pebbles One on Marine Parade, claims between “£40,000 and £50,000” would have been lost. 

Mr Terry, said: “It is shocking and disgraceful that some are suggesting we should put money before lives. 

“They are also suggesting that we should help facilitate the breaking of the current national lockdown.

“Everyone knows we are losing money closing car parks, but we care more about safety. 

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and if people weren’t acting so selfishly coming into Southend we’d be able to open them.

“Having the police checking drivers’ origin sends a strong message, stay local. There were a lot of vehicles on the seafront and it was clear some weren’t following this rule.”

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Ron Woodley, deputy leader, councillor reaffirmed the decision to close car parks was taken to protect the public. 

He said: “We took the difficult decision to close all our seafront car parks at the start of the year as we saw cases and hospital admissions rising locally, and also saw out of town visitors flocking to the seafront.

“Since they’ve been closed, we have seen fewer out of town visitors and positive cases have continued to fall in recent weeks.

“Our decision to close car parks was rightly based on keeping people safe and well, and we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can to help support our NHS and those working in hospitals during this incredibly challenging time.”

Although, councillor Keith Evans, who represents Blenheim Park, has called for the car parks on the seafront to be opened to Southend residents.

He said: "If there are police checking the origins of drivers, which I totally agree with, then why can’t residents park down there and the visitors are sent away? 

“There are people who will want to walk along the seafront who live in the area, but to get there by walking is quite difficult for those with mobility issues – even if it is a short distance.

"When I went down there at the weekend I had to find a parking space in a residential area, which isn’t fair for the residents.”

Essex Police have assured they have responded to any clear and blatant rule breaches, and are reminding residents to do the right thing and continue following guidelines.

A spokesperson said: "Covid-19 infection rates have been falling in Essex and we’d like to thank people across the county for following the government guidelines.

"However, the virus is still prevalent in our community so it’s essential that you continue to stick to the rules.

"The best way to control the spread of the virus, protect your loved ones and ease pressure on the NHS is to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary journeys.

"The vast majority of people are doing the right thing but, where clear and blatant breaches have taken place, our officers have responded to them.

"If you are thinking about making a non-essential journey, please reconsider, stay safe and stop the unnecessary spread of Covid-19.

"Our officers will continue to take a common sense approach to the government’s regulations. They will continue to engage with people, explain the regulations and encourage them to do the right thing."