Fylde Council promises £80k for better safety signs across coast after tragic sea deaths of two boys in St Annes

Muhammad Azhar Shabbir (left) and Ali Athar ShabbirMuhammad Azhar Shabbir (left) and Ali Athar Shabbir
Muhammad Azhar Shabbir (left) and Ali Athar Shabbir
Around £80,000 is being spent on new safety signs along the coast of Lytham to Blackpool following the tragic deaths of two brothers in the sea at St Annes.

Muhammad Azhar Shabbir, 18, and Ali Athar Shabbir, 16, from Dewsbury, drowned after being caught in the rapidly-rising tide on August 15 2020.

At their inquest at Blackpool town hall today, it was revealed that signposts showing tide times in the area were out of date. A sign from Fylde Council, located at the car park near the Monteray Beach Hotel, should have displayed the times for August, but instead showed the times for June and July.

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The court heard that the person usually responsible for changing the sign was on leave, and that no arrangements had been made to replace them.

Lisa Foden, Fylde Council's coastal services manager, has now said that new rules have been introduced by the council to ensure that tidal signs are kept properly up to date in future.

The authority is also in the process of spending £80,000 on improved safety signs across the coast.

She said: "We have done a full risk assessment of the coastline to identify areas from Blackpool to Lytham where we felt additional safety signs were required.

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"We put together some proposals for additional notice boards and safety signage at a number of beach and dune entrance points across the whole stripe. We are working with graphic designers at the moment with the intention if having them manufactured and installed from June onwards this year.

"There's going to be beach safety signals which we have consulted the RNLI on and there will also be tourist information, emergency contact information, and information and PSPOs. They highlight the risks that people need to be aware of, including sand bars and tidal patterns.

"In the car park leading onto the beach there will be a brand new public safety sign.

"This is a particular challenge as the majority of the Fylde coastline is open and there are many entrance points to the beach through the dunes which are not formal entrance ways. We have taken into consideration what this required, looking at signage that we can install in informal entrance ways from the dunes."

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A code will be added to a sign near the Pier that can be passed on to emergency services so that they can easily locate the area in future, as the Shabbir family reported waiting on the beach for around 40 minutes while services struggled to find them.

Coroner Andrew Cousins, who handed down a conclusion of accidental death for both Muhammad and Ali, said: "At the entrance to the beach where the family members had entered, there was a car park and a toilet block on which was posted the tide times. The tide times that were being shown were out of date. They were out of date because the person responsible for them was away... and nobody had removed the outdated times and replaced them with new timetables.

"It's clear to me that further work has gone into insuring that such a situation cannot take place again and there is a new system in place.

"There was no signage about issues regarding the tide and hazards on the approach to the beach from the car park. However the scene has been investigated and an amount of money to improve safety, and new signage which states contact details for emergency services, a code for the location, and warnings of the hazards and the absence of lifeguard services in the area will be placed on the formal access points to the beach."

He concluded that, due to the actions already taken to Fylde Council, it was not necessary for him to write to the authority about what they should do to prevent future deaths.