Published: 17:42, 25 June 2020
| Updated: 09:40, 29 June 2020
A security company has been hired after scores of people flocked to a beach and saw their vehicles trapped in a car park.
The good weather has seen more and more people descend on Folkestone seafront over the last few days, with the Lower Leas Coastal Park being a prime hotspot.
Earlier this month, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) introduced several new rules for the park, which runs parallel to the beach, following weeks of issues - including littering, fires, parking problems and people hanging out in large groups, prompting social distancing fears.
The new measures included adding a gate at the car park, which is locked overnight from 8pm to 8am.
It was hoped this would stop people staying in the area until late in the evening after some visitors were found congregating along the coast as late as 11pm.
But FHDC has now revealed some people were ignoring the new rules and signs and their vehicles were getting trapped in the car park.
Last night, the council had to release more than 10 cars which had been locked in.
In addition, the barrier was damaged overnight.
Now, to tackle the ongoing issue, FHDC has hired a security company - Right Guard Security - to manage the car park.
Anyone who needs to be released after 8pm will also be charged £100.
A spokesman for the authority said: "While a lot of people are excited about the return of good weather, it has meant things have got very busy once again - with the Lower Leas Coastal Park being especially popular.
"Despite successfully introducing a number of restrictions to reduce some of the issues seen recently, a number of people seem to be ignoring the fact the car park is closed between 8pm and 8am.
"We’ve put lots of signs up and have people in the park warning visitors of this, but we still receive calls from those surprised to find their vehicle has been locked in.
"There was more than 10 of these cases last night - and regretfully the height barrier and entrance gate suffered damage at some point in the evening.
"As a result, we have had to hire a local security company to manage the car park overnight so there will now be a £100 release charge for vehicles left on the site after 8pm.
"This is not to make money - far from it.
"It’s to act as a deterrent and protect what is an important and well-loved area for the people that enjoy and, more importantly, respect it."
The scheme will be cost-neutral to the council.
The news has been welcomed by residents with one person on Facebook calling it a "great plan" and another suggesting the car park be made into a short stay only.
Other measures recently introduced at the nearby Lower Leas Coastal Park by the council include adding six extra large bins to tackle the litter issues, banning barbecuing following a spate of fires and increasing patrols by enforcement officers.
Double yellow lines along Radnor Cliff Road, which is close to the coastal park, have also been refreshed in a bid to remind people not to park there.