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Whitstable Oyster Company will challenge 'draconian' barbecue and glass bottle ban if enforced on its beaches

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One of Kent's oldest firms says it will take legal action against a council if it enforces a beach ban on barbecues and glass bottles on land the business owns.

The Whitsable Oyster Fishery Company has hit out at "draconian" rules which would see people fined £100 for enjoying a glass of wine or lighting up to cook on the town's seafront.

Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company boss James Green
Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company boss James Green

The controversial proposals are currently out for consultation but look likely to be approved by Canterbury City Council, and could be introduced by the end of July.

But the WOFC says it will challenge any attempt to impose the restrictions - known as public space protection orders (PSPOs) - on a stretch of beach the 229-year-old firm owns in the town.

The company's director, James Green, says he is willing to take the local authority to court should it not back down.

"The Whitstable Oyster Company has always encouraged the use of its beach for recreation, while maintaining its ability to carry on with commercial uses associated with our business," he said.

"However, the latest proposals by the city council to enforce what seem like draconian restrictions via a PSPO order on the beach seem excessive, as would be heavily restricting these recreational uses that have been enjoyed by many people harmlessly over the years.

"Where is there a more enjoyable and safer place to have a glass of wine whilst having a BBQ?"

West Beach in Whitstable is owned by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company
West Beach in Whitstable is owned by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company

The WOFC owns West Beach - with a few exceptions including the harbour - from near the shingle spit in Tankerton, known as The Street, to just before the caravan park, opposite Whitstable and Seasalter Golf Course.

A similar PSPO banning dogs on council beaches in the summer does not apply to those owned by the WOFC, but the new measures would.

Mr Green says the exemption on dogs is "no detriment to either residents or the environment, as most people are responsible".

"Ours is one of the few beaches to allow this activity, and is an attraction to both residents and visitors alike," he said.

"It is for this reason that the Oyster Company will seek to challenge the PSPO on the beaches that it owns, legally if necessary.

"This is so that people, the vast majority of whom treat the beach with the respect it deserves, can continue use the beaches in the manner that they have been accustomed to over the years."

As well as barbecues and glass bottles, the sanctions will also apply to overnight camping, carrying catapults and dangerous cycling or jet-ski riding along a 14-mile stretch of the seafront, which includes Herne Bay.

Similar tough rules are already in force at a number of parks and beauty spots across the Canterbury district.

Cooking food with a disposable barbecue on Whitstable and Herne Bay beaches could be banned
Cooking food with a disposable barbecue on Whitstable and Herne Bay beaches could be banned

Cllr Ashley Clark, the authority’s lead member for enforcement, has insisted it is not an attempt to “kill fun” but a bid to stop “our beaches being covered in glass”.

“We’ve had numerous complaints from people who try to walk on the beach and find broken glass all over the place,” the senior Conservative said.

“We don’t want that. It’s got to stop. People get injured – I and others have been cut by glass at the beach – and animals get cut.

“And when certain people see bottles, they go around smashing them. We’ve been having yobs having bottle-smashing competitions.

“We don’t want to kill fun. We want people to use the beach without being endangered. It’s limited specifically to the beach because that’s where the problem is and people tend to have bare feet.”

Canterbury City Council enforcement boss Cllr Ashley Clark
Canterbury City Council enforcement boss Cllr Ashley Clark

The new rules will prohibit anyone from being in possession of any glass bottle on any beach on the district’s coast, unless the bottle is being carried in transit.

If given the green light, the lighting and discarding of disposable barbecues on the seafront will also be outlawed.

Fixed penalty notices of up to £100 could be issued to anyone taking part in the prohibited activities, while offenders brought to court for breaching the order would face being fined as much as £1,000.

On the WOFC's intention to challenge the orders, city council spokesman Rob Davies said: "We thank the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company for their thoughts and would encourage them to submit them formally in the consultation if they have not done so already.

"All views will be considered when we come to make a decision on the PSPO in due course."

A six-week consultation on the PSPOs opened in March and ends tomorrow at 5pm.

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