A RISE in “fly-camping” near a popular beach has sparked concern - and triggered debate about whether Southend’s borough needs its own permanent “staycation” campsite.

Resident Tim Gillett, who frequently visits Shoebury East Beach, saw at least six tents arrive at the weekend as beach-goers pitched up on the green, opposite the seafront, to make the most of the heatwave.

Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for planning and environment, confirmed the council had received reports of people camping there.

She said: “We share the concerns of residents.

“Our open spaces are a great draw for visitors and although camping is not allowed in our parks and car parks, we’re seeing more incidents of impromptu camping.

“We ask visitors to respect rules and not camp when they shouldn’t.”

With many residents avoiding going abroad while the pandemic continues, Mr Gillett questioned whether it was time the borough had its first official campsite.

The 59-year-old from Shoebury, said: “I walked to Shoebury East Beach at 9am on Saturday and saw a two berth tent right at the back of the field.

"On Sunday there were two tents at the back of the beach right up to the fence of the Ministry of Defence ranges, plus there was another tent next to a parked up motorhome, and a huge six berth tent close to the children’s play area on the main grass area up from the beach.

"There are no shower facilities but there are two toilet blocks.”

He said the nearest campsite at the moment was really in Hadleigh.

He continued: “But that’s for glamping and there’s a smaller caravan park near the airport, but it’s under Rochford Council domain.

"I’m amazed there isn’t one for Southend, especially with the rise in staycations. So many want a cheap break, whether they’ve lost their jobs or aren’t willing to risk travelling abroad.”

He thinks the old Hinguar Street playing field would be perfect, adding: “It’s right behind the beach on George Street and has been overgrown for two years, it could easily accommodate up to 30 tents.”

Mrs Mulroney added: “Creating a designated campsite is an interesting concept. It’s worthy of further consideration.”