UNDERAGE drinkers “must be tackled” after leaving empty bottles and assorted litter strewn across beaches over the bank holiday weekend, according to irate residents and business owners.

Good weather and the three-day weekend meant the region’s beaches were packed over the bank holiday.

But with the crowds came an increased amount of littering which resulted in the award-winning beaches in Southend and Leigh being left in a disgraceful state.

Staff at the Peterboat pub in Old Leigh were fuming after witnessing the behaviour, which they blame on underage drinkers who cannot be bothered to take their rubbish with them.

A spokeswoman said: “There has recently been a spate of underage drinking in Leigh and the Peterboat team were alerted to the presence of a number of teens consuming shop-bought alcohol in Leigh on Friday afternoon.

“The group were witnessed disposing of their litter in an irresponsible and dangerous manner, throwing bottles and cans into the Thames Estuary.

“Over the past several weeks we have been liaising with the local authorities and are now happy the police have started patrolling and dispersing these teenagers.

“As a responsible venue we operate an over 21s policy and can confirm this group of youths were not served by us. We would appreciate help tackling the growing issue of underage drinkers in public spaces. We are upset to see the misuse of these areas we so laboriously take care of.”

However, not all young people were the causing problems this weekend, as a team of Sea Scouts took the time to help with the clean-up.

Peter Jacob, assistant Sea Scout leader of the 3rd Chalkwell Bay Sea Scouts said: “The Scouts were going to play Mud Olympics in Leigh Creek, but ended up spending the first half of the evening clearing up all the rubbish and bottles that had just been thrown into the sea.

“It’s a shame that visitors can’t take their rubbish home with them, and instead use the sea as a dumping ground. We’re proud to be part of the community and the Scouts did a great job that evening.”

Southend Council were prepared for the increase in visitors and had special measures in place to cope with the possibility of large volumes of litter.

This included sending extra litter pickers who worked late into the evening and deploying a beach rake machine.

Carl Robinson, Director of Public Protection for Southend Council, said: “Disappointingly, some people did leave quite large amounts of litter along the seafront, which we worked hard to collect quickly.We would like to thank all those who ensured our beaches were swiftly returned to their high standards.”