Canterbury City Council published the draft Local Plan earlier this year in which the beach retained its designation as Protected Open Space, which is good as far as it goes. However, the WBC, in conjunction with the Whitstable Society and Councillor Ashley Clark have campaigned for the beach (from the Sportsman Public House in Seasalter to the Green Gap) to be designated Local Green Space.
Local Green Space is a new planning designation, which provides special protection against development for green areas of particular importance to local communities. LGS designation is a new category of land use and affords a similar level of protection as Village Green designation does but without the longevity. (The designation only lasts as long as the Local Plan, a Village Green is in perpetuity). The beach at Whitstable matches all of the criteria in the new National Planning Policy Framework (download here) for Local Green Space and provides a stronger guarantee of access to the beach and better protection against development, we feel.
NPPF criteria for Local Green Space:
“where the green space is in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves”;
This is incontrovertibly the case with Whitstable Beach, where it adjoins the town.
“where the green area is demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of its beauty, historic significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife”
The beach is of particular local significance as it is one of Whitstable’s defining landmarks. Both currently and historically, it is special to the local community for all of the reasons listed in the NPPF above. That there is a local desire for it to remain undeveloped is evidenced by the level of local objection to any planning applications to build on the beach, the most recent application in 2010 being rejected unanimously by the councillors at Canterbury City Council. In addition the beach has had SSSI status for many years and substantial parts of it are already registered as Village Green.
“where the green area concerned is local in character and is not an extensive tract of land”.
Again, it is the beach at Whitstable that very much defines the locality. It is, almost uniquely, an urban beach, which serves the local community in many ways. Our interpretation of an “extensive tract of land” would be a National Park, or something similar, which clearly is not the case here. It would be hard to make a case for the beach being anything other than Local Green Space as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework.
It is the feeling of the WBC that the greater level of protection afforded by Local Green Space designation, should additionally be applied to Whitstable’s beaches. This, again, is in line with the guidance in the NPPF Para 76.
“Local communities through local and neighbourhood plans should be able to identify for special protection green areas of particular importance to them. By designating land as Local Green Space local communities will be able to rule out new development other than in very special circumstances”.
In this campaign we have been supported by many of the local councillors particularly Ashley Clark (Gorrell Ward) but also Neil Baker (Tankerton), John Wratten & Phil Cartwright (both Harbour Ward) and Mike Bull (Seasalter). The Local Green Space designation for the beach also has the support of the Whitstable Society and the Open Spaces Society. After tireless campaigning and lobbying of the council the Local Green Space designation for West Beach has now been included in Canterbury City Council’s Draft Local Plan. The single objector to the Local Green Space designation was the landowner, The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company.
At a General Meeting of the council on Thursday 24th April 2014, councillors agreed almost unanimously (just one councillor, Herne Bay’s Andrew Cook, abstained from the vote) to grant Whitstable beach Local Green Space designation.) calling for West Beach, from the caravan park at Island Wall to the harbour, to be designated a Local Green Space.
This means that West Beach would be listed in CCC’s local plan as Local Green Space which would preserve the rights of access for all and make development on it unlikely. The proposal was approved at a meeting of the full council after a passionate speech from Ashley Clark that has been described as “Churchillian”! Ashley urged his fellow councillors to take advantage of new planning rules that allow residents to suggest “demonstrably special” places to be protected.
Cllr Clark said: “This has widespread local backing. It is inextricably linked to the heritage of the town. Those of us who were born and brought up in the town understand the special place it is. For me and other locals it is part of our DNA. It remains my favourite place on the planet. It is where I swim with my dogs, and where a long time from now they can scatter my ashes. This application is about hearts and minds. This particular space is truly special and that needs to be recognised.”
The proposal was seconded by Tankerton councillor Jeanne Harrison, who said it was a fitting legacy of the hard work of WBC co-ordinator Nick Dewhirst, who died last year. And Lib Dem leader Alex Perkins said it was important to give the beach lasting protection. He said: “We were almost at war with the owners at one stage because they had what can only be described as predatory intent, although I am not suggesting that is the case now.”
Labour’s Phil Cartwright, who represents Harbour ward in Whitstable, said: “Whitstable would not be Whitstable without the beach. We have had attempts before for it to be encroached upon with a café and beach huts. To do that would be to lose our beach, and if we lose the beach we lose our visitors, then we lose our town.” Council leader John Gilbey said it was an important issue, and the beach was under “considerable pressure from human use”.
The beach will now be included as Local Green Space in the council’s local plan, a blueprint for development across the district. See Canterbury City Council Draft Local Plan