SOUTHEND could face a local lockdown if people continue to flout distancing rules, bosses have warned.

Senior figures at Southend Council have urged yobs to start taking responsibility or face seeing the borough back in lockdown, after a number of mass gatherings which spilled out across the area over the weekend.

Traders fear the threat, although last case resort, would be a “nightmare” for the borough’s economy, having only just started to recover from the hit of the first wave.

The warning comes after beer bottles, cigarettes and nitrous oxide pellets were left at Old Leigh after a rave on the seafront on Friday night.

Police were then forced to invoke emergency powers to prevent a planned repeat the next day and fifty people were moved away from the area before they could cause any disruption.

Another large gathering also took place at Hadleigh Castle, where a man was reportedly hit with a bottle.

Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety and customer contact, said: “When it’s a case of public order it’s largely down to the police. What the council can do, and this is last resort, is follow in Leicester’s footsteps.

"Southend could potentially also have a local lockdown, but the last thing any of us want is to see the economy close when it’s just getting back on it’s feet.

“The council had to submit a local lockdown plan just in case by the end of June, which we have done. If there is a large spike the Director of Health can then instruct that area to close.

“When people start to get to get intoxicated they let their guard down. Please remember you can be asymptomatic and can still pass it on to your parents or grandparents. There are fatal consequences- take responsibility, nobody wants this to happen.”

Southend Council leader Ron Woodley, added: “We don’t want to go into local lockdown, it really shouldn’t be necessary. I’m just hoping for bad weather on Saturday which isn’t right considering we are a seaside town.”

Emma Dadswell, director at Toys N Tuck on Queens Road in Southend, said: “It’s so nice to just be back open but even now some aren’t even confident enough to be going out. We have a few customers who are booking slots so they can come in without others there.

"Going into lockdown again would be an absolute nightmare, everyone is only just getting back up and running.”

David Amess, MP for Southend West, said: “Following disturbances and anti-social behaviour on Chalkwell Seafront, in Old Leigh and in Leigh Library Gardens, I have received a large number of emails from upset residents who simply cannot understand what is happening at the moment. 

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic and people should not be gathering in vast numbers. It would appear that many of the people engaging in anti-social behaviour were visitors, if that is the case it is outrageous that they have travelled here to cause mayhem.

“I fully accept that it is not easy to close beaches, but Old Leigh would be easy to reduce access to.”

Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow said: “Over the last few months the vast majority of people across Essex have been doing the right thing and sticking to the Government’s guidance, and I want to thank them for that.

“Where we receive intelligence about, or reports of, large gatherings or situations where the Government’s guidance is not being following, we will prioritise it based on the information received and the risks identified and ensure we have the right people in the right place at the right time.

“Where necessary and appropriate we will use the tools we have available to us to deal with any issues, such as dispersal orders.

“Our approach has been – and remains – to engage with the public, explain the Government guidance, and encourage them to do the right thing and our officers continue to use their discretion and judgement in these situations.”