Organisers of a large beach gathering have admitted it “got out of hand”, but denied their event was “illegal” after it was attended by police and ambulance crews.
Images shared on social media show hundreds of people gathering in Romney Marsh, Kent, after Flavour Boss, a Caribbean takeaway and delivery based in Croydon, south London, hosted a beach cookout.
One witness described seeing officers in riot gear.
The event was advertised online as taking place at a “secret beach location”.
Tickets were sold for £27.54; however, Flavour Boss director Orette Williams said the money was to cover the three coach-loads of people who attended the event and the company gave out food free of charge.
Under current government Covid-19 guidelines, it is against the law to hold a gathering of more than 30 people without permission from the local authority and police.
Mr Williams told the PA news agency that he was given permission for the event but it was withdrawn 48 hours beforehand after police found out that coach-loads of people would be attending.
“It did get a bit out of hand, with regards to the social distancing,” he said.
He added that he had been given “mixed signals” by Folkstone and Hythe District Council, which he said gave permission for a gathering that followed social distancing rules.
“We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. What was I going to do? I was going to lose £2,000 on the coaches,” he said.
“We don’t host illegal gatherings, we did not break the law – the police knew this event was taking place. They were there from the start.”
The council confirmed that police were patrolling the area.
In a post on Facebook, it wrote: “We are aware of the large unauthorised gathering taking place at Greatstone Beach. It is causing delays in the area so please bear this in mind if you have travel plans.
“Kent Police is reminding those attending of the latest government advice around social distancing and encouraging them to adhere to it.
“Officers will remain in the area as part of their patrols.”
The event was originally planned to be held at nearby Camber in East Sussex, but the plan was blocked by police.
Sussex Police said the event had not been granted the relevant permissions and would not be supported.
The force’s Rother branch tweeted: “Any event of more than 30 people, without agreement from the police and local authority, will not be allowed to go ahead. Rother District Council and Sussex Police will be monitoring arrivals at the beach and will disperse or turn away any large groups or gatherings.
“Anyone who bought a ticket for the event at Camber should contact the event organiser and ask for a refund.”
Kent Police have been contacted for comment.