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Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield calls for action over littering and antisocial behaviour in Whitstable

An MP is calling for police and councils to take urgent action after a "huge rise" in littering and antisocial behaviour.

In a letter penned jointly with Whitstable councillors, MP Rosie Duffield is calling for action to be taken after reports boy racers and yobs binging on laughing gas are causing a "nightmare" for residents.

Rosie Duffield. Picture: Suzanne Bold/The Labour Party
Rosie Duffield. Picture: Suzanne Bold/The Labour Party

Ms Duffield also urges councils to try out new "big belly" bins and larger rubbish collection, in an effort to clamp down on litter which has blighted the town's seafront following recent sunny weekends.

In the letter - addressed to Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, county councillor Mark Dance, and Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael - the MP says the issues have been exacerbated by the lockdown, which has left many people "with little else to do apart from come to the beach".

"We appreciate that the police have attended multiple call outs to big groups gathering in recent weeks on the Harbour Arm and by Keam's Yard car park," she writes.

"We know the police moved one group of around 80 people away from three different locations over the course of the evening of June 20.

"Despite this, local residents are reporting that they feel increasingly scared and intimidated to walk down by the beach at sunset, describing it as a 'no-go area' for their family and friends."

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott
Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott

She also brands current bin arrangements along the seafront between "insufficient", and calls for Canterbury City Council to trial "big belly bins", and to introduce more litter receptacles at spots with high footfall.

She writes: "These solar-powered bins compact rubbish, taking up to eight times as much waste as conventional bins. They communicate with authorities to 'tell' rubbish collection services when they are nearly full.

"We are also asking that there is extra capacity in the seafront refuse collections during summer weekends and sunny weekdays until the end of August.

"With so many people working from home and furloughed, the beach is an attractive and cheap day out; we need to adapt our own practice so that it stays a clean, welcoming and safe day out too," she adds.

Problems with litter and antisocial behaviour have been increasing during the lockdown.

Watch: Fight at Whitstable west quay earlier this month

One resident told KentOnline that boy-racers were making it a "nightmare" to live in the town, adding: "People are coming here from other areas and they think they can act with utter impunity due to the lockdown.

"There is filth, litter, broken glass and drug paraphernalia left all over the beaches and the harbour at night - all the same people who speed around doing doughnuts and racing their mates.

Ms Duffield's letter is co-signed by Whitstable Labour councillors Valerie Kenny, George Caffery and Chris Cornell.

In a letter of response, Canterbury City Council's chief executive Colin Carmichael wrote: "Please rest assured that we share your concerns and are working hard in the background to address them."

City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael
City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael

Criticising "lazy, selfish" litterers, he said: "We do not have a magic wand to wave and solve a societal problem but there is much we can and are doing."

He pointed out that biggers bins have previously been trialled along the seafront, only to be met with criticism from residents who "complained they are ugly and campaigned for them to be removed".

"Emptying larger bins poses logistical challenges for Serco as it is virtually impossible to get the larger vehicles needed along the beach walkway," he added. "Then there is the danger as the pandemic eases that bigger bins will get in the way and make social distancing much more difficult especially on very busy days.

"Of course, more bins and more emptying will cost more money at a time when our finances are under enormous strain."

Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott says action is also being taken to combat antisocial behaviour.

He said: "The public’s concerns are reflected in my Safer in Kent Plan, which sets out the priorities I expect Kent Police to deliver against. The plan makes specific reference to antisocial behaviour and road safety and so I was pleased to read Ms Duffield’s feedback on Kent Police’s ongoing efforts to tackle these issues in Whitstable.

"Whitstable also received a dedicated town centre PC last year thanks to money I raised through the council tax precept."

He added that he plans to "continue to highlight the importance of tackling antisocial behaviour" to police colleagues.

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable

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