POLICE were called as large groups of people began fighting and starting fires near Bournemouth pier.

Shocked onlookers watched as scores of people ignored social distancing guidelines and got involved in scuffles on the hottest day of the year so far.

The pier and surrounding area were busy with thousands of visitors when fights broke out at about 7.30pm last night.

And one visitor told the Daily Echo he will never return to Bournemouth after witnessing the disturbance.

He said two large groups, one with roughly 100 people and another of about 50 people, started to argue near the pier.

"They were starting fires on the beach and on the prom and getting louder and louder" said the man, who does not wish to be named.

"The police and security guards arrived and then a fight started. It looked like about three or four people were injured and at least two were arrested."

He said police dogs were also brought to the scene.

And added: "There was no attempt made to disperse the groups. If the police and council can't deal with incidents like this they should close the beaches."

The man, a former Bournemouth resident, was visiting the town but said: "I won't be coming back. Bournemouth is a different place these with fights, rough sleepers and the smell of cannabis everywhere.

"This is a family resort and there were a lot of families in the area at the time - this is not what people want to see.

"I think the council needs to be careful and not to allow things like this to happen in the first place."