Bay walks guide bows out over public safety fears

Alan Sledmore.
Alan Sledmore.

A cross bay walks guide says he is ‘devastated’ after having to throw the towel in due to the threat of prosecution over health and safety issues.

The unofficial guide to Moecambe Bay, Alan Sledmore, who has been leading people across the bay for 20 years, says it is simply too much hassle to continue with his programme of walks next year and beyond after he was told he could face prosecution by Lancaster City Council.

Two people complained anonymously to Lancaster City Council about their concerns after taking part in a cross bay walk on August 3 for St John’s Hospice.

Concerns were that the guides didn’t tell the coastguard they were going on a walk, stewards were not wearing high visibility jackets and children were given rides on quad bikes.

But Alan said he had an excellent safety record with only two reported incidents over 20 years.

Alan said: “We are in limbo at the moment due to the investigation but we have had to fall on our sword and just say we are not doing any more walks. We are doing something for the community and raising money for charity and they are trying to prosecute me. It stinks of a conspiracy.”

Alan, a part-time coach driver, warned of the cockling disaster only a few months before it happened, warning authorities of the dangers of opening the cockle beds without regulation.

He said: “Disasters are less likely to happen now because everything has been tightened up. I understand that we have a duty of care on the sands and to look after the welfare of people but at the end of the day it’s a public right of way and you can’t stop people crossing. “

Suzanne Lodge, Chief Officer (health and housing), said: “We received a number of reports from concerned members of the public that they believed that the walks being undertaken were unsafe.

“The safety of the public is paramount and we have a duty to investigate when serious concerns are brought to our attention. Our initial investigation confirmed the need for changes to the way walks were conducted and for one matter a prohibition notice was served under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

“The notice does not prevent walks taking place in the future but we would expect that the issues in the prohibition notice are addressed.”

Cedric Robinson, who has been the official Queen’s Guide to the Sands for 50 years, declined to comment on the matter.