A seafront car park in Southend has been locked up overnight in an attempt to put off those on the hunt for illicit sexual encounters.
Southend Council has made the decision to close Shoebury Common car park at 9pm to curb a long-term problem of public sexual activity in the area and men meeting in public toilets near Uncle Tom's Cabin – a café and eatery popular with motorists.
Local police have felt the pressure of patrolling the area, wasting hours hanging around the site to make sure all drivers return to their vehicles and leave the car park by dusk, when it officially closes.
Shoebury Tory councillor Tony Cox said: "There was an issue of cottaging in the toilets. People were in the car park and dogging was happening at night. The police are welcoming the action we are taking."
Mr Cox reportedly witnessed one man entering the toilets near Uncle Tom's Cabin five times in half an hour.
Peter Grubb, who runs the roadside cafe, told The Echo: "Over the years, the toilets outside Uncle Tom's Cabin have been a cottaging hotspot.The police are aware of it. They used to launch operations to come down and arrest people, but because of cutbacks they no longer come down.
Local residents have also pointed out a variety of other spots that have been frequented by those looking for sexual encounters including the public toilets near Three Shells Beach.
There is a similar problem with the toilets at East Beach.