HELP SAVE OUR FORESHORE!
Public Inquiry to hear appeal by WOFC against CCC enforcement to remove oyster farm on Whitstable foreshore
DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS: 21st May.
You are probably aware that last July Canterbury City Council issued an Enforcement Notice against the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WOFC) in relation to its large-scale industrial oyster farm on the Whitstable foreshore. The Enforcement Notice required the removal of oyster bags and trestles which appeared to the Council to be a breach of planning control. It was due to take effect on the 17th August 2018 with 2 months to comply with the requirements.
On the 15th August 2018, however, the WOFC submitted an appeal to the Secretary of State against the Enforcement Notice. This action prevents the Enforcement Notice taking effect until a decision has been made on that appeal.
Whitstable Beach Campaign has recently received notice that a Public Inquiry will be held to decide the WOFC’s subsequent appeal. The deadline for any comments is stated to be 21st May. However, it appears that almost no-one has received notification of the timetable for the Inquiry, the deadline for comments or information about the grounds of appeal. (This information should have been made public by CCC by the 21st April). Below is some background to this appeal, what is required now and how you can make your opinions known to the Inquiry inspector.
Of greatest concern is that, if the appeal is successful, the WOFC will potentially be able to circumvent normal planning procedures and secure permission via the Planning Inspectorate rather than CCC, the local planning authority. WOFC’s claim that their operation is legal is largely based on their assertion that the farm has steadily grown in size since before 2010. However, our evidence shows no farm existed before January 2010 and then only a small number of test trestles were erected which were subsequently moved by the WOFC and that the development only started in earnest from 2016 onwards.
Contrary to the claims of the WOFC that oyster growing on trestles is traditional, these trestles are an entirely new departure, erected without permission on a Site of Special Scientific interest, namely the intertidal zone of Whitstable beach. The oyster that actually made Whitstable famous is the ‘Whitstable Native’, which grows beyond the foreshore out to sea and is dredged from wild beds whose fishing poses no threat to the environment, navigation or safety. The oysters grown on these newly constructed trestles are the controversial Pacific Oysters, an alien non-native invasive species, not the Whitstable Native Oyster.
Canterbury City Council is fighting the appeal on compelling environmental grounds as the foreshore and surrounding areas have some of the highest protections both nationally and internationally including; Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Internationally recognised wet-land area under the RAMSAR convention, Special Protection Area (SPA) and Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). The arguments submitted by Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) highlight the serious environmental concerns that this development has raised. 15.06.18 KWT consultation
Tax-payers via Natural England and the Kent Wildlife Trust are funding efforts to eradicate Pacific Oysters locally as they form reefs, which quickly colonise all of the shoreline, wiping out local species of sea life vital to our wading birds and making whole areas impassable to the public due to their razor-sharp shells (see pictures of Brightlingsea in Essex below). Teams of volunteers are working to eradicate Pacific Oysters along the North Kent Coast from Herne Bay as the Pacific Oyster (classed as a Non-Native Alien species) is now regarded as a serious threat to our foreshores. It colonises vast areas choking out the biodiversity that is crucial to our foreshore ecosystems (see:
The Pacific Oyster was imported to our waters some time ago but increases in sea temperature mean that it now grows and reproduces rapidly. This is good news for the industrial-scale cultivation now being practiced here (it grows far faster than the original Whitstable Native) but the cost is a potential environmental catastrophe. The shells are razor sharp and make areas impassable to the public and wildlife. These two photos of Brightlingsea Essex give an indication of the likely outcome:
Wild C. Gigas (Pacific Oyster) Reef on Intertidal Mud at Brightlingsea Essex.
Close up of Wild C. Gigas (Pacific Oyster) on Intertidal Mud at Brightlingsea Essex showing razor sharp shells.
Any developments in these protected areas must usually seek permission and environmental assessments should be carried out. WOFC, however, failed to do this prior to their ongoing and expanding industrialisation of the beach. Instead, they applied for a retrospective Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD). This application was opposed by a multitude of different interest groups including the Whitstable Marine Environment Group, the Herne Bay & Whitstable Water Safety Committee, Whitstable Yacht Club, the Royal Yachting Association and the Whitstable Society. Their opposition focused on public safety, environmental concerns, hazards to navigation and loss of a much-valued public amenity.
The steel trestles situated close to the shore have industrialised a unique and iconic landscape. A large area of steelwork, submerged at different states of the tide, presents a danger to holiday makers, water sports enthusiasts, swimmers, and children paddling, effectively putting a much-loved beach out of bounds to the public for only the second time in the history of Whitstable – the first time being during WW2 when similar structures were erected to prevent invasion. We have yet to find another example of an oyster farm erected on the middle of a popular public beach.
The Whitstable Beach Campaign, on behalf of all those who opposed the development, congratulate Canterbury City Council for their robust efforts to curtail this unlawful industrialisation. Long term, Whitstable Beach Campaign urges the Council to bring the beach into public ownership [i] and preserve the rights of the public to use the foreshore and the sea in safety for perpetuity.
The Planning Inspectorate issued a timetable for the Inquiry process in which CCC should have publicised the Inquiry and notified all interested parties by the 23rd April. As far as we know, very few people or organisations have been notified so CCC have not complied with the Inspectorate guidelines and now it has become necessary for the Beach Campaign to bring the Inquiry to people’s attention.
Over 240 members of the public submitted objections to Canterbury City Council last May, but these comments may not necessarily be passed on to the Planning Inspectorate by CCC and we urge the public to resubmit their comments to Canterbury City Council AND the Planning Inspectorate in order that their opinions are taken into consideration. For anyone wishing to comment on this appeal the points of contact for both CCC and the Planning Inspectorate are as follow:
Canterbury City Council
Head of Planning: Simon Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben White (Case Officer)
Alternatively, you can send 3 copies of your letter to:
The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3B, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN
Your name and address and the appeal reference must be quoted in all representations:
DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS: 21st May.
The Appellant’s (WOFC)’s appeal and other submissions related to the Inquiry can be downloaded from the following link:
Here you will find copies of the enforcement notice and Regulation 37 as served on the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, submissions provided by consultees, and copies of relevant correspondence with the Planning Inspector with regards to the appeal.
[i] The Whitstable Oyster Fisheries Company is a restaurant business who acquired ‘ownership’ of Whitstable Beach when they bought the then defunct Royal Native Oyster Stores and opened it as a restaurant. This ownership is considered anomalous and the Whitstable Beach Campaign has campaigned to have the beach brought into public ownership where the stewardship of its important environment can be ensured. Why should the beach at Whitstable be left in private ownership – an anachronism dating from Henry VIII. The maintenance and replenishing of the beach and all of the sea defence works on it are funded by the tax-payer to the tune of several million pounds, most recently in 2006 and Canterbury City Council foot the bill for cleaning the beach. Having your property maintained and preserved out of the public purse must be an almost unique position for any “land-owner” to be in especially if that beach is then developed in a way to put it out of access to the public. Bringing the beach into public ownership would preserve the rights of the public to use the foreshore and the sea safely and in perpetuity.
Information is based on sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However the Whitstable Beach Campaign does not guarantee this to be so, accepts no liability and offers no warranties in relation to it, to the fullest extent that liability can be excluded by law. All use of it is subject to English law and jurisdiction