PEOPLE across Colchester have been warned to follow the rules or face a fine after as many as 80 people congregated at a skatepark.

Skateparks in the borough have been closed after concerns about large groups and a lack of social distancing.

Colchester Council has also warned it will close playgrounds if rules are not abided by.

It comes after Essex Police and the council’s Covid marshals, reported people gathering in groups.

Extra patrols are now being carried out at locations which are a concern.

In one instance last Sunday and Monday dozens of people were found at the skatepark near Leisure World.

Mike Lilley, Colchester Council’s public safety boss, said: “We had 80 people up there - adults and children.

“Most of the children all fled as soon as they saw the police.

“They had to make a couple of visits as they all came back as soon as the police went away.”

Mr Lilley said they were also looking to apply to have the basketball court at the Old Heath Recreation ground closed.

He added: “We have had 15 to 20 people there - children and parents - all mingling together.

“People have had ten months of these guidelines. We are used to what we can and can’t do.

“We are going to see police issuing quite a few more fines.

“Between March and December last year police issued 600 verbal warnings in Colchester.

“The fines were in single figures but it is now going to be different.

“People are visiting popular places like Dedham and Mersea and most are breaking the guidelines.

“You need to stay in and stay safe. There is no need to drive miles and miles away.

“We have had complaints we are being heavy handed and the police are being heavy handed but we are doing this to save lives.”

Mr Lilley said the Covid marshals had also responded to some town centre shops which were allowing customers inside to collect orders against guidelines.

Read more: Covid marshals set to be deployed in Colchester

Martin Goss, the council’s environment boss, urged people to follow the rules.

He said: “Colchester is home to many beautiful open spaces that contain playground facilities and we want people to enjoy them safely.

“If people can’t follow the rules, then in the interest of protecting and saving lives we will take the decision to close the playgrounds where this continues to be a problem.

“We need to take care to be considerate to others and all do our bit combat the spread of the virus.

“Stay at home as much as possible, and when out for your daily exercise, stay at least two metres apart.”