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No UK-France crossings over Easter weekend, says P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries had intended to resume crossings on its popular Dover to Calais route over the Easter weekend, but has now announced that there will be no ferries sailing, adding that passengers can instead travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

No UK-France crossings over Easter weekend, says P&O Ferries
P&O Ferries are currently running no services between France and the UK. Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP

The news comes after a P&O boat was impounded by British authorities on Thursday because of safety concerns. 

Issues with P&O Ferries are just one factor in increasingly chaotic travel between France and the UK, with airlines cancelling hundreds of flights due to high numbers of staff with Covid and lengthy waits to get through security at British airports.

Roads in the south of England have also seen miles-long tailbacks of lorries due to Brexit-related paperwork issues.

READ ALSO Easter travel to France: What services are running?

PO has not run any France-UK routes since the announcement on March 17th that it was sacking all of its UK-based seafaring staff and replacing them with cheaper foreign workers.

Initially people with P&O crossings booked were offered alternatives on DFDS ferries, but over the busy Easter period DFDS is unable to take on the extra passengers.

People with tickets booked on P&O Ferries have now been given two alternatives – drive to Hull instead and travel to Rotterdam (which eagle-eyed readers will notice is not in France), or make the journey to Portsmouth and join a Brittany Ferries crossing to Caen.

A P&O spokesman told British newspaper The Independent: “We apologise unreservedly to all customers whose scheduled journeys with us between Dover and Calais have been cancelled whilst we are unable to sail.

“It is only fair and right that we make alternative arrangements for those customers, which include transferring them onto our Hull-Europoort service to Rotterdam, or booking them onto services with Brittany Ferries between Portsmouth and Caen.

“Both of these options are at no extra cost to customers – if anyone chooses either of these alternatives we will reimburse them for any additional mileage expenses incurred and as well as all meals onboard our overnight crossing. Customers will also receive a 25 per cent discount on their original fare.

“We also recognise that these options will not be suitable for everyone, therefore any customer who booked directly with P&O Ferries will be able to claim a full refund and a free trip for future travel.

“We thank customers for their patience during this time and apologise again to those whose journeys have been disrupted.”

This Easter is the first holiday period since the UK government lifted all Covid restrictions in England.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

Airlines including Easyjet and BA have cancelled more than 1,000 flights in recent weeks as staff are laid low with Covid. In total 80 flights were cancelled on Thursday.

Meanwhile passengers at airports including Manchester have reported extremely long queues to get through security, also die to staff shortages.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has advised travellers to turn up at least three hours before their flight, adding that the chaos is unlikely to be solved in the short term. 

Channel Tunnel say that their services are running normally, but are almost at capacity so last-minute bookings may not be possible. The Eurostar service is running as normal.

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TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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