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No more overnight motorhome camping at Leysdown, Sheppey, says Swale council


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Motorhome and campervan drivers have been given their marching orders.

Swale council has insisted they stop parking overnight along the seafront at Shellness near Leysdown on Sheppey.

Motorhomes and campervans parked along the seawall at Shellness, Leysdown, Sheppey
Motorhomes and campervans parked along the seawall at Shellness, Leysdown, Sheppey

The council has already banned the vehicles from parking overnight at The Leas at Minster and a stretch along the shingle bank between Sheerness and Minster.

But the latest ruling has upset father-of-three George Matthews who is living in a converted bus with his partner Amy and their five-month-old baby boy.

Mr Matthews, 42, said: "All motorhome owners have been served notice by the council which threatens to seize our possessions if we continue to park on the seafront. The letters were delivered personally. I know of at least 10 people who will be made homeless if this threat is carried out."

The bathroom fitter and handyman added: "I sunk all my savings into buying and converting a single-decker bus. We move around Swale but I've fallen in love with Sheppey. Leysdown is a lovely little place. We like parking here.

"We have an allotment here and me and the kids go litter-picking on the beach. I have even tackled fly-tippers. There is no law to say we can't live in a vehicle. Neither of us can afford a house but we like this life and like being able to stay on the wall."

George Matthews on the seafront at Shellness, Leysdown. He wants to park his bus along the seawall. Picture: John Nurden
George Matthews on the seafront at Shellness, Leysdown. He wants to park his bus along the seawall. Picture: John Nurden
George Matthews' family bus which can no longer be parked at Shellness
George Matthews' family bus which can no longer be parked at Shellness

The letter from the council issued under section 43 of the anti-social behaviour, crime and policing act says overnight camping between 8pm and 8am is illegal and likely to have a "detrimental effect" on locals.

It says: "This conduct is unreasonable and must stop immediately."

It said the council had received complaints and that continued use would result in a £100 fixed penalty notice. If unpaid, magistrates can issue a fine of up to £2,500 and require the "surrender of possessions" which could then be destroyed or disposed of by police.

The bus, once owned by a holiday firm, boasts a kitchen, bathroom, lounge, master bedroom and children's bedroom with two bunk beds. It is powered by solar panels on the roof.

Mr Matthews said: "Most of the people who live along here are well-behaved. Now the council is putting an end to it. We are devastated and will probably have to sell the bus.

Motorhomes and campervans parked along the seawall at Shellness, Leysdown, Sheppey
Motorhomes and campervans parked along the seawall at Shellness, Leysdown, Sheppey

"This ruling will also affect Leysdown. The council is trying to boost tourism but it is turning away visitors in camper vans and motorhomes. It is such a shame. They are taking away a little slice of our freedom."

He said holiday parks are charging £35 a night. "That's a lot of money. But we'd all be happy to pay £5 or £10 a night to the council to stay here," he said.

Swale council has offered him alternative accommodation in Maidstone and on the Island but he has turned them down. He says the Maidstone house is too far away because he takes his daughters to school in Sittingbourne and Faversham and the Sheppey house won't take his two dogs.

A Swale council spokesman said: “While we do everything we can to support tourism in Sheppey, and are encouraged that motorhome users visit the Island and boost the local economy, overnight camping is only permitted in designated areas where the appropriate facilities are available.

“We had more than 60 motorhomes parked along the side of the road at Shellness Road last month making it unsafe for local drivers and difficult for people to access the beach. We also received reports of litter and other waste being left behind that we had to clean up at the taxpayers expense.

“We had more than 60 motorhomes parked along the side of the road at Shellness Road last month making it unsafe for local drivers..."

“There are lots of overnight camping options available around the Island. We would love to see visitors really making the most of them. They would be able to enjoy what the Island has to offer and support local businesses after a difficult year.”

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