The Whitstable Beach Campaign is an organisation that was founded nearly twenty years ago. Its sole aim is to preserve the unspoilt nature of the beach and protect the right of access to it. We believe that the beach is vital to the community. It is a much-loved open space, which should be protected for all time.
The beach has several layers of protection afforded it including its Site of Special Scientific Interest designation and RAMSAR status, an international bird protection convention. The WBC, under the tireless leadership of Nick Dewhirst, has also succeeded in obtaining Protected Open Space designation and also an Article 4 Order for the beach to protect it from development and preserve access. Most recently Whitstable beach (extending to The Street) became an MCZ (Marine Conservation Zone) under an Order made by the Secretary of State in 2016. The Swale Estuary MCZ
If you are interested in supporting the campaign, require further information or would like to receive e-mail updates on our activities please contact the Whitstable Beach Campaign using the form on the Contact page.
OYSTER RACKS / CANTERBURY CITY COUNCIL DEADLINE FOR OBJECTIONS IS 11-05-18
CA//18/00663 | APPLICATION FOR LAWFUL DEVELOPMENT CERTIFICATE FOR EXISTING OYSTER TRESTLES. WHITSTABLE BEACH, WHITSTABLE
Canterbury City Council is now investigating the legality of the oyster racks on the foreshore that have been constructed by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company in order to carry out industrial-scale farming of a non-native species of oyster.
In April 2017 CCC issued a Planning Contravention Notice in respect of the oyster racks. This action was as a result of pressure from concerned parties including the Whitstable Society, the Whitstable Marine Environment Group, Herne Bay & Whitstable Water Safety Committee and the WBC with the support of local councillors Ashley Clark & Bernadette Fisher.
On 29-03-18 the WOFC submitted an Application for Legal Development to Canterbury City Council. This is essentially an application to regularise the placement of the trestles and make them permanent and it can be found on the CCC website (copy & paste this link into your browser):
It is very important that the Council hears the public’s views on this development. The CCC deadline for comments from the public is the 11th May and we urge everyone to submit any comments concerning the threats that these racks pose before this date. Comments can be made online via the link above.
The WOFC grounds for the application are that “the building works (for instance, building or engineering works) were substantially completed more than four years before the date of this application”. To succeed the applicant needs to prove, amongst other things, that the stuctures – on that scale – have been there for 4 years. Here are the Guidance Notes to assist. guidance_note-lawful_development_certificates
However, our records show that the extent of the oyster racks four years ago was a very small-scale operation, the racks numbering around 200 in 2014 compared with approximately 2500 currently. According to evidence we have collected this enormous expansion has mainly happened since 2016, much more recently than the specified four years since the application was made.
In addition to this, the WBC believes that important reasons for opposing this application include:
- The steel racks present a danger to users of the sea including swimmers, dinghy sailors, kayakers, paddleboarders and windsurfers.A risk assessment commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency identified that “there was a high consequence to people navigating in the area due to the trestle design with a worst credible outcome of severe injury or fatality”. There have already been a number of accidents and near-misses reported.
- The positioning of the racks – submerged in the intertidal zone – presents an obstruction to navigation. The buoys and markers that have been placed around the sharp obstructions do nothing to prevent serious harm occurring to vessels in distress or boats that have capsized.
- The oyster species grown on the racks are Pacific Oysters, not Whitstable Natives, which have traditionally been fished using dredging methods a safe distance off shore.
- Pacific oysters are a non-native alien species that are considered invasive. Natural England is funding the eradication of feral Pacific oyster colonies a short distance away – at Hampton Pier & Herne Bay. Why is this species permitted in Whitstable?
- The development constitutes a material change of use to the foreshore; oysters have never been farmed in this area before 2010.
- The foreshore is subject to a number of environmental protections including SSSI & RAMSAR designation and we do not believe any of the required impact assessments have been carried out. In particular determining the effect of industrial machinery, steel racks and quad bikes on the fragile ecosystem that makes up the Whitstable foreshore.
- Whitstable is internationally renowned as a seaside destination and has a long history of sailing and water-based activities.The trestles, positioned on the most popular section of the beach, threaten this reputation because of the hazards they now present. Whitstable is now at risk of losing one of its most important amenities.
Many thanks for your support in opposing the wholesale industrialisation of the foreshore and preserving the unspoilt nature and safety of Whitstable beach.
OYSTER RACKS 12-03-18
You are probably aware of the industrialisation of the foreshore at Whitstable. The steel oyster racks erected by the Whitstable Oyster Company have grown hugely in numbers and now present a threat to the enjoyment of the beach and sea, which has always been a public right. These steel obstructions are also dangerous and present a hazard to the sailors, swimmers, kayakers and windsurfers who are attracted to Whitstable for its unique watersport amenities. Children and novice sailors & windsurfers are particularly at risk.
Since 2016, the racks erected by the WOFC in the intertidal zone at West Beach have proliferated and now number approximatelty 2500 at the last count. A summary of the issues to do with public safety, marine hazards and the environment are included in the downloadable document below:
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
We urge you to:
Write to (or e-mail) the MMO to express your concerns and request that they reconsider their decision allow the WOFC to claim exemption from the requirement to hold a Marine Licence. Even the evidence that has been presented to the MMO from their own advisory bodies; the Marine Coastguard Agency and the Marico Marine report (commissioned to inform their decision) clearly states that the new trestle development “posed a navigational hazard to local recreational sea-users”. If a tragedy happens as a result of the MMO’s decision to allow the development of the racks the MMO should consider how the Public Inquiry that must follow would view their actions.
Issues that can be raised with the MMO include what steps (if any) it is taking to address the obstruction that these racks are causing to navigation and leisure use of the beach. How large an area of the beach west of the harbour do the MMO intend to allow the racks to extend over? Why they have given no consideration at all the implications of the planned extension of the development to Long Beach? Why have they not taken enforcement action? Why have they not required the WOFC to apply for a marine licence so that proper planning consideration can be given to this development and to its impact on other users of the sea, to the environment and the interests of the wider public?
Contact Canterbury City Council and local councillors to express your feelings about the racks. Why has the Council not taken planning enforcement action? What steps will be taken to require the WOFC to apply for development consent so that the application can be considered through normal, democratic planning processes?
Whitstable’s previous MP Julian Brazier actively campaigned against this development and we are pleased that our new MP, Rosie Duffield, is continuing to support our concerns about the public safety issue that this development presents and the likely environmental damage to this foreshore. Our local councillors, too, Bernadette Fisher (Lab) & Ashley Clark (Con), are concerned about this matter and have raised the issue at Council meetings.
Paul Johnson, District Marine Officer, Marine Management Organisation, SE Marine Area, Fish Market, Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW
Thomas Overy / MMO
Marc Thain / MMO
CANTERBURY CITY COUNCIL
Colin Carmichael, Chief Executive, Canterbury City Council Offices, Military Road, Canterbury, United Kingdom, CT1 1YW / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHITSTABLE BEACH TOWN GREEN INQUIRY UPDATE 12-03-18
The Whitstable Beach Town Green Public Inquiry concluded in December 2017 with the summings-up and final submissions from the Whitstable Beach Campaign. We are awaiting the outcome of the Inspector’s findings and will update this web page when they are published.
The application was made on behalf of the people of Whitstable in 2013 to legitimize their right to access to the beach in perpetuity, irrespective of its private ownership. Final submissions were heard from the only two parties opposing the application: Canterbury City Council & The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company. The dates and venues for the final hearings were as follow:
FRIDAY 16th DECEMBER 10:00 am: Final submissions from Canterbury City Council. The Robinson Room, The Castle, Tower Hill, Whitstable CT5 2BW.
MONDAY 19th DECEMBER 10:00 am: Final submissions from the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company. The Galley Suite, The Marine Hotel 37 Marine Parade, Whitstable CT5 2BE.
TUESDAY 20th DECEMBER 10:00 am: Final submissions from the Whitstable Beach Campaign The Galley Suite, The Marine Hotel 37 Marine Parade, Whitstable CT5 2BE.
Witnesses previously gave evidence at two previous sessions of the Inquiry in May and October 2017.
In the October 2017 session, Mr James Green of the WOFC gave as one of his reasons for opposing the right of people to carry out legal pastimes and pursuits on the beach, the possibility of organisms being brought onto the beach via the footfall of beach users, which would contaminate the oyster stocks of the WOFC. The Beach Campaign do not believe that there is any sound scientific basis or regulatory requirement to support this claim.
The WOFC told the Inquiry about their plans to build agricultural sheds on the beach near the Horsebridge to house grading machinery and equipment stores, the outcome being that the area from the Horsebridge to the Neptune, the most popular part of Whitstable Beach, would be excluded from public access. If the beach were awarded Town Green status this industrialisation of the beach and restriction of access would not be possible.
Due to recent changes in Village & Town Green legislation this might be the last chance to register our beach as a Town Green and safeguard people’s right to use it.
NATURAL ENGLAND MAPPING OUR SECTION OF THE COASTAL ACCESS PATH.
Another issue related to the rights of access to the beach at Whitstable is currently being decided by Natural England. Natural England is mapping the England Coast Path – a new National Trail around England’s coast. For the first time people will have the right of access around our entire open coast. This includes; the path and where appropriate the land that continues seaward to the low tide. This is known as coastal margin.
One of the sections currently under consideration includes Whitstable. However, Natural England are considering excluding a large section of the foreshore on West Beach from this Coast Path at the request of the Whitstable Oyster Company who have recently erected large numbers of oyster trestles (see below). These are exposed at low tide but covered at higher tides and pose a significant risk to sailors, swimmers, windsurfers and other water users. The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company have erected the racks, apparently (to the best of our knowledge) without consultation with or permission from any of the relevant bodies – RNLI, Trinity House, the RYA, the Marine Management Organisation, HM Coastguard etc. etc.
Growing oysters on steel racks is a relatively new method of cultivation involving importing Pacific oysters, rather than harvesting Native oysters from the seabed offshore, which has historically been the case. Canterbury City Council has stated in evidence at the ongoing Town Green Public Inquiry, that the oyster industry at Whitstable has been dormant for the last hundred years, until quite recently.
The recent increase in oyster production between the low and high water marks seems to have coincided with the Town Green application and Natural England’s mapping of the coast path. The situation has worsened in the last few months and the oyster racks are now a significant hazard for beach users generally. The no-go zone is causing hazards for sailing and windsurfing activities and there have already been incidents of dinghies and windsurfers colliding with the steel racks. It’s possible also that the oyster racks could also impact on RNLI operations if they expand at the current rate.
As mentioned previously, the Whitstable Oyster Company have publicly stated at the Town Green Public Inquiry that they intend to impose an exclusion zone over Whitstable dry Beach from the Horsebridge to the Neptune, which would dramatically effect the public’s access to the most popular part of the town’s beach. We would expect that the WOFC may also extend this request for exclusion to Natural England.
We are anxious that anyone concerned with safety on the water should make representations to Canterbury City Council, Natural England and all of the relevant organisations. Very few of these bodies, if any, seem to be aware of the danger and inappropriateness of the trestles. In our opinion the steel oyster trestles are a serious accident waiting to happen. The Natural England mapping is currently in progress and a prompt response from any concerned parties is required before it becomes set in stone.
If anyone would like to contact Natural England they should email Kevin Haugh: SouthEastCoastalAccess@naturalengland.org.uk
The Head of Planning at Canterbury City Council is Simon Thomas email@example.com
THE WHITSTABLE BEACH CAMPAIGN (WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE WHITSTABLE SOCIETY) HAS MADE AN APPLICATION TO KENT COUNTY COUNCIL FOR THE BEACH TO BE DESIGNATED A “TOWN GREEN”. IF SUCCESSFUL THIS WILL PRESERVE FREE ACCESS TO THE BEACH IN PERPETUITY. THE DEADLINE FOR EVIDENCE FORMS HAS NOW PASSED BUT WE HAVE COLLECTED OVER 400 WITNESS STATEMENTS FROM WITHIN THE PARISH OF WHITSTABLE FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THE BEACH DURING THE 20 YEAR PERIOD FROM 1992 TO 2012.
TO DATE THERE HAVE ONLY BEEN TWO OBJECTIONS TO THIS APPLICATION. THESE ARE FROM THE LANDOWNER, THE WHITSTABLE OYSTER FISHERY COMPANY AND CANTERBURY CITY COUNCIL
WHITSTABLE BEACH TOWN GREEN PUBLIC INQUIRY CONTINUES 3RD OCTOBER 2016.
The Public Inquiry for the Whitstable Beach Campaign’s application to register Whitstable Beach as a Town Village Green will continue at The Marine Hotel, Marine Parade, Tankerton, Whitstable, CT5 2BE starting at 10am on 3rd October for 3 days: Monday 3rd, Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th and then continues the following Monday 10th for 3 further days; Monday 10th, Tuesday 11th and concludes Wednesday 12th.
The Beach Campaign applied to register the beach in September 2013 after Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WOFC) notices appeared on many of the Groynes near the High Water mark saying: ‘Private Land, Do not take shellfish, No right of way seaward’.
The WBC was very concerned that these notices posed a serious threat to people’s use of the beach. They effectively say no one has the right to go beyond the position of the notice and therefore access to the sea for swimming or paddling etc, is private and out of bounds.
The Beach Campaign would like to encourage everyone to support us at this important inquiry. Never before have the people of Whitstable been denied access to their beach, access has always been free and unrestricted throughout the Town’s history. Public funds have created our current beach and public funds maintain, repair, clean and insure it. Any attempt to deny access must be prevented. Town Village Green status is the best way to secure access now and for future generations.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE TOWN GREEN PAGE.
DRAFT LOCAL PLAN
CANTERBURY CITY COUNCIL HAVE AMENDED THE NEW DRAFT LOCAL PLAN TO INCLUDE “LOCAL GREEN SPACE” DESIGNATION FOR WEST BEACH, GIVING A GREATER LEVEL OF PROTECTION OVER THE PREVIOUS “PROTECTED OPEN SPACE” DESIGNATION.
ONLY ONE OBJECTION HAS BEEN MADE TO THIS DESIGNATION, THE LANDOWNER, THE WHITSTABLE OYSTER FISHERY COMPANY
MORE INFORMATION ON THE LOCAL GREEN SPACE PAGE