Since Government guidance changed to allow people to travel for unlimited exercise, there has been an increase in visitors to the area’s iconic white chalk cliffs.
While many local authorities are dissuading large numbers of people from flocking to the area, those who do are being reminded of the serious risk the unstable cliffs pose to those getting too close to the edge or walking at the base of the cliffs, and beach walkers who get cut off by the tide.
In recent days there has been a cliff fall in Peacehaven, the rescue of a visitor stuck at the base of the cliff after being cut off from the tide in Seaford, and people posing for a selfie at the edge of the cliff in Eastbourne.
Cllr Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for environment and transport, said: “Although Government guidance has changed to allow travel for exercise, there is a concern that large numbers of people heading to the coast will make social distancing extremely difficult, risking a second wave of Covid-19.
“Those who do visit our beautiful coastline need to also understand the very real danger posed by the unstable cliffs.
“Nearly 50,000 tonnes of cliff has crashed onto the beach below in recent years which is why it is so important that, while enjoying the beauty of the coast, people understand the dangers and take every possible precaution to stay safe.
“I would strongly urge people to stay well away from both the cliff edge and the base of the cliffs when walking on the beach. I would also encourage people to check tide times before setting out as it is possible to get cut off by the incoming tide or be forced to walk beneath the cliffs.”
The safety messages are part of an ongoing joint campaign being promoted by the county council, HM Coastguard, The National Trust, South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Seaford Town Council, Wealden District Council, Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council.
Signs and posters highlighting the dangers are displayed along cliff-top walks, bus routes, at visitor car parks and tourist information centres and on community notice boards throughout the year.
Members of the public who see someone who is fallen or who is trapped at the base of the cliff are being told not to attempt to rescue them, but to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
Cllr Dowling added: “As well as staying safe around the cliffs, it’s also really important that people do not become complacent and ensure they are maintaining a two-metre distance from anyone not in their household.
“Social distancing is particularly difficult on the county’s beaches at high tide so if you do visit, it is best to avoid doing so at these times.
“We all have a duty to protect ourselves and others, prevent a second wave of the virus which has claimed so many lives, and protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.”