Rock strikes back at middle-class teenage tide with ban on night beach parties

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The Independent Online

It is 1.30 in the morning and a dozen drunken teenagers are still out in Daymer Bay, at the seaside resort of Rock in Cornwall. Two 16-year-old girls giggle as they drag fenceposts across the sand. They are building a bonfire, swigging all the while from a bottle of cider. Another boy lies on the sand near by, muttering: "I'm fucked."

It is 1.30 in the morning and a dozen drunken teenagers are still out in Daymer Bay, at the seaside resort of Rock in Cornwall. Two 16-year-old girls giggle as they drag fenceposts across the sand. They are building a bonfire, swigging all the while from a bottle of cider. Another boy lies on the sand near by, muttering: "I'm fucked."

Welcome to the annual invasion of Rock, when up to 600 teenagers, predominantly from public schools, descend on the tiny town. But this year, the residents who inhabit the cottages stacked like dominoes on the headlands that overlook the bay are fighting back - with a ban on beach parties at night.

Local people are so fed up with the drunken and sometimes violent behaviour of the thousands of teenagers, most of whom are too young to buy alcohol and cigarettes or to have sex, that they have secured an order closing the beach after 10pm during July and August. Parties will be redirected to Polzeath Beach - a policed "dispersal area" where disorderly revellers face ejection and possible arrest. Under-16s are barred. The local community is also planning to spend £30,000 in the next two months on security and extra policing.

"Enough is enough," says a man at a beachfront water sports kiosk (who won't give his name "because people have had tyres slashed and windows broken when they complain"). "Boisterous we don't mind," he adds, "but violence and destruction is something else. These idiots may wear chinos and shirts, not hoodies, but they can't have their fun at our expense any more." A resident of Daymer Lane, which leads to the beach, said the "yah-yahs" brought with them a "culture of opulent neglect". "After [pub] closing time, they walk down to the beach in large groups, singing and using very foul language," he said.

"They have smashed up a telephone box, thrown stones through one old couple's window at 1am, and last year ripped up gates and benches to put on their bonfires. On one occasion, I followed. There were 200 youngsters down on the beach, some who looked as young as 12, drinking, taking drugs ... there were couples going off to the dunes."

Shopkeepers complain of having to clear up to 20 bags of rubbish - cans, glass bottles, condoms and embers - before holidaymakers arrive every morning. Tuck Clagett, the manager of St Enodoc's Golf Club, which backs directly on to the beach, is particularly vexed. "They cross the course and take anything that is not glued down to burn: flags, tee markers ..." he said. "We've have greens dug up, buggies stolen and crashed. It's a disgrace. My greatest concern is that now they can't use the beach they will party on the course."

The problems have got worse over the past four years. In this part of Cornwall, to see six people walking around is considered busy, let alone 600. What used to be scores of wealthy teenagers - either accompanying their parents or releasing post-exam steam with school friends - has become hundreds, fuelled by hype and the presence of princes William and Harry, who have often visited Polzeath, surfing and drinking with other tourists.

The teenagers' large allowances, cliquey parties and debauched behaviour has led to Rock being dubbed "Knightsbridge-sur-Mer". "It has just got out of hand," says Sgt Robin Hogg, the police officer behind the beach ban, who will become a local hero if it succeeds. "We don't want to stop these people coming and enjoying themselves - but damaging vehicles, vomiting or urinating in driveways and throwing bottles is not fair."

Sgt Hogg says he has written to every independent school in the country to warn their pupils of the crackdown. He anticipates a rise in crime in Polzeath as revellers are moved there but says the police will be vigilant.

Meanwhile, the party-seekers insist they "just want a good time". Hugo, a 20-year-old student at Exeter, who was on the beach with seven friends, said: "We have been coming here for years and not caused a problem. We're on a long weekend but will be back in a month for the big parties. I'm sure people will find a way [on] to the beach; there's normally too many for the police to control."

His girlfriend Annabel admitted: "Some people get a bit out of control. But we should not all be demonised. If we weren't from public schools, no one would care."