Published: 06:00, 23 July 2020
A new outdoor seating area for 120 people on Whitstable beach would expose children to drunken crowds and “lewd behaviour”, councillors fear.
The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WOFC) wants to build the decking for customers of The Forge oyster shack in Island Wall.
It would be on the beach opposite, currently used by Whitstable Yacht Club to store boats.
But town councillors fear the area could become a hotspot for antisocial behaviour.
Labour’s Val Kenny, Chris Cornell and George Caffery have submitted an official objection to WOFC’s application, which is currently being considered by Canterbury City Council officers.
“This is a very popular area for families to walk,” they write. “Children will be exposed to large numbers of people drinking, strong language and the associated lewd behaviour which can accompany drinking too much.
“Parents of children in Sea Wall have reported to us that the intimidating behaviour of large groups of people drinking on the beach has made many feel unsafe returning to their home through entrances on the sea side.”
They also raise concerns over a lack of lighting, glass putting beach-goers at risk, the decking being targeted by arsonists and revellers entering the area unchallenged despite being under the influence of drink or drugs.
Tankerton councillor Neil Baker (Con) has also objected to the proposals.
“I believe the application will increase the levels of public nuisance, crime and disorder and create risks to public safety,” he writes.
But a legal representative for the WOFC has said, after concerns were “addressed”, the police now have no objection to the application.
The firm says the plans are intended to meet demand from punters and to help cope with challenges the coronavirus has presented.
They say it is also to protect jobs, as a major local employer, and to “expand opportunities” at an uncertain time.
There are plans for the area to have both CCTV coverage and it would be overseen by trained staff from The Forge.
Yacht club’s fury over plans
Plans for the new seating area at The Forge would be built on land currently used for boat storage by the Whitstable Yacht Club (WYC).
The site is privately-owned by the Oyster Company and leased to the WYC - but the agreement is set to end on August 31.
Bosses at the WYC are strongly opposed to the licence application as they fear it could harm its revenue and membership. Vice commodore Jo Phillips says the loss of beach space would present a “significant impact” on the water sport communities.
The WYC is receiving legal advice after rejecting an offer of a new lease from the WOFC as its conditions “would make it impossible for the club to continue in its current form”.
A spokesperson for the WOFC says it has looked at the lease with reference to the “changing need” of the firm relating to land it owns.
“A recent offer to extend the lease, on what we consider to be extremely favourable terms, was rejected and no counter-proposal has been received,” they said.