Parents and child safety campaigners have launched an urgent petition to get Southend Borough Council to build a 20ft wall around the new seafront lagoon after a ‘Paedophile Alert’ was raised this morning.

At around 9.30 on Friday, a number of children were enjoying a splash in the brand new purpose-built facility on Southend Seafront, and concerned mother Jemima Fuch-Weet spotted a photographer with a camera walking along the pier towards the pier head.

She said: ‘I was keeping a close eye on my two young children who were enjoying a dip in the lagoon, when all of a sudden I noticed that there was a man, perhaps a little bit foreign-looking, walking along Southend Pier going out to sea. He had a camera around his neck, although he wasn’t pointing it at anything.

‘The camera looked like a Canon SLR, and it had a really long lens on it – that sort of thing would be perfect for taking photos of children in a lagoon from a long distance without being spotted. Didn’t anyone think that Southend Pier could in effect become some sort of paedophile platform?’

‘I called the police straight away, and they promised me that the helicopter would be scrambled as soon as possible. In the meantime, I took a really blurry and practically useless photo of the man and shared it to lots and lots of local Facebook groups so everyone can keep an eye out for him.’

‘Me and some other mums have also started a petition online to get Southend Borough Council to build a 20ft concrete wall around the lagoon. It is the only way that are kids will be safe from men with big cameras on Southend Pier.’

A spokesperson for Southend Borough Council confirmed that the complaint is being dealt with. He added: ‘We are investigating the possibility of building a 20ft concrete wall around the lagoon to ensure that all children are safe. However, we may have to build a roof as well to protect users from drone photography.’

‘Alternatively, we have also launched a feasibility study to see if we can just build a 20ft screen along the entire western side of the pier. This would ensure that photographers are only allowed to take photos facing eastwards.’