Blame game sign of the times

COMPENSATION culture has led to people being warned not to swim off one of Felixstowe's beaches.More than 25 signs were put up telling people there were hidden structures which could prove dangerous beneath the waves – in case a bather got injured while having a dip in the sea and decided to sue.

COMPENSATION culture has led to people being warned not to swim off one of Felixstowe's beaches.

More than 25 signs were put up telling people there were hidden structures which could prove dangerous beneath the waves – in case a bather got injured while having a dip in the sea and decided to sue.

But today the Environment Agency, which put up the signs, said it had not meant to stop people swimming and pledged action to alter the notices.

Felixstowe councillors are angry at the the signs – around half of which have now been removed – on groynes between the Manor End and Landguard.


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They said it was a bad advert for the resort and feared it would spoil the enjoyment of people who has swum in the area for years and drive people away.

The signs say no swimming within 15 metres of the groynes, which with the breakwaters only 25 metres apart left nowhere to swim.

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Mayor Doreen Savage said: "This is the old, old story of organisations having to be very careful in case someone swims into a groyne and then sues.

"I think the Environment Agency is being ultra-cautious and that is giving an adverse reflection on our resort. We have gone sign crazy and we seem to forget that people will always do their own thing and will swim if they want."

Former mayor Malcolm Minns said the Environment Agency's lack of courtesy in failing to consult with the town council before putting the signs up was "near to outrageous".

Councillor Andy Smith said the signs were not needed anyway as the area had already been cleared of any underwater dangers.

A spokeswoman for the agency said the signs were put up because of liability in an incident and the agency had a duty of care to make everyone aware of any dangerous structures they may come into contact with in the water.

However, the red and yellow warning signs were a British Standard notice which had been used on beaches in Norfolk, where groynes were 500 metres apart and the signs more appropriate.

"The signs say do not swim within 15m and this is what is causing the problem. We are not saying you cannot swim but we didn't want people to assume that there are no hidden structures," she said.

"We have now taken down every other sign so there is some room to swim, and we are meeting with Suffolk Coastal to reach a compromise on the appropriate wording to warn people of the hazards but allow them to enjoy the sea."

n To sue or not to sue – what would you do if you hurt yourself on a groyne or object in the sea? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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