Vandals have repeatedly damaged COVID-19 safety signs in two Lake District towns.
Signs and banners advising people to observe social distancing in Windermere and Bowness have been ripped down, slashed and even set on fire.
At least 40 signs have been damaged in the past few weeks. The incidents have been reported to the police.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) is replacing the signs, which were put up as part of Covid-19 community safety measures in town centres across the district.
SLDC has worked with partners including Cumbria County Council, the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), parish and town councils and local businesses on the project, which along with signage, posters and banners advising people to observe social distancing, has also seen hand sanitiser stations installed, 20mph speed limits introduced and street marshals patrolling in some of the busier Lake District locations.
In one incident a large banner on railings close to the Glebe at Bowness was slashed and over the past two weekends other signs on lamp-posts and bollard covers in Windermere and Bowness have been forcibly removed, while the LDNPA have reported several of their social distancing signs set on fire or thrown into the lake.
Although it is not clear whether the incidents are linked to the damage to signs, graffiti expressing disapproval of pandemic measures has also been reported on a couple of buildings in Bowness.
Mayor of Windermere Councillor John Saunders said: “During this terrible and for many frightening pandemic, many residents and businesses asked for and welcomed the Covid-19 secure signs put up by the council.
“As the shops, cafes, bars and facilities of Windermere and Bowness struggle to keep open, feeling as safe as possible in our shopping and tourist areas is very important for both our residents and visitors.
“The signs help to reassure everyone by simply asking them to follow the rules. It’s very disappointing that a few disagree and feel it necessary to resort to vandalism to express their opinion.’’
Windermere district councillor Dyan Jones commented: “Whatever your views on Covid19 and the government guidelines, when it comes down to it, this is simply wanton vandalism and a waste of money which ultimately benefits no-one.
“The scale of damage suggests these are not one-off incidents. It is wilful, deliberate and destructive actions by an individual or group to intentionally destroy signage in Windermere and Bowness. The council and the national park have now reported these incidents to the police.
“All signs and banners are in place to protect our public health. Public money has been spent to combat any risk of spread of Covid19 – to protect our communities. Damage of this nature means that more public money will now be spent replacing them. All of this is costly and unhelpful for the greater good, whatever your views about the pandemic.’’
The project supporting safety measures on high streets is receiving funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Department for Communities and Local Government.