Southend councillor urges golfers to stop after facing verbal attacks

Residents are being urged to stop playing golf and follow government advice on staying home after a councillor said he was abused for telling people to stay indoors.

Councillor Stephen Aylen (Ind), who represents the Belfairs ward, said that every day he has seen around 20 people attempting to play golf at the Belfairs Golf Club on Eastwood Road in Leigh, despite the sport not being classed as a daily form of activity under government advice.

The councillor said he has asked people not to play for their own safety but has faced aggressive confrontations, leaving him fearing for his own safety.

“I have tried to tell them they shouldn’t be playing and they always just start shouting, saying they are only playing a few holes and what harm could it do,” he said.

“Even though I try to talk to them from a distance, I do sometimes fear for my safety. I have a duty of care to protect residents.

“Every day there is people there, probably around 20 a day trying to play.

“All the flags are removed but they are still just coming along.”

He said he has considered calling the police over the situation as they now have the power to hand fixed penalty notices to people who go out for non-essential reasons, but he believes they are already overloaded.

“I think people just do not understand how serious this is. They just don’t get it.

“There is an attitude of I am going to do what I like anyway, who do you think you are telling me what to do.

“It is terrible to think, but until someone near to a lot of these people dies from this, until it happens to them, they won’t do anything.”

Leader of the council, Councillor Ian Gilbert has sided with Mr Aylen and urged people not to play golf.

He said: “There are four reasons people can leave their homes and one is for exercise, however that includes a walk, run or cycle, not a three to four hour round of golf which can often involve groups of up to four people.

“Unfortunately although the golf course is closed, we cannot physically restrict access as it is an open space, however, the flags have been removed and we would urge residents to not play.

“It is really unfortunate to hear that a councillor has received verbal abuse for doing their duty and reminding people of their responsibilities.”

The governing body for the sport, England Golf, has said in a statement that keeping golf course open is “no longer compatible” with government policy which is “designed to save lives in a time of national emergency”.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter