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Safety fears could force bid to buy Whitstable beach from fishery

By Joe Wright

Fed-up councillors afraid of safety hazards on Whitstable beach could use a compulsory purchase order to buy the land.

Canterbury City Council’s community committee recommended getting the ball rolling on the issue in order to gain control of the popular beach.

The Whitstable Oyster Fishery owns a section of the land in West Beach but has come under fire for erecting “lethal” oyster racks near the shore.

The oyster racks off Whitstable
The oyster racks off Whitstable

Cllr Neil Baker (Con) says now is the time to act.

“The safety of the public is our primary concern in everything we do – in this instance, safety is at serious risk so we need to act,” he said.

“The motion was unanimously passed... so we are in agreement something needs to be done.

“We all know of the issue so we can’t just sit and wait for a water user to get hurt.”

Mr Baker hopes the fishery will listen to the general consensus and place more warnings for the racks.

He said: “An ideal situation in the short term would be for the owners to act in everyone’s best interest and mark the racks appropriately with clear signage.

“It is a very confusing and complex process but the view for a compulsory purchase is an option.

“It’s similar to land the council acquired on Seasalter Marshes where there were lots of individual plots. Local government moves at a snail’s pace at times but we can get ownership.”

The racks will be staying
The racks will be staying

The oyster racks in the shallow sea allow the oysters to grow-out to a desired size.

Chris Hewlitt, spokesman for the fishery, said, “The company has not been contacted by the council, nor was it invited to attend any meeting.

“Given the company did not attend and was not represented at the meeting, it would be inappropriate to comment.”

The ownership issue is now being explored by council departments and a report will be released at a council meeting.

Cllr Neil Baker says now is time to act on the oyster racks
Cllr Neil Baker says now is time to act on the oyster racks

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “During the first half of January, the council was made aware of various issues in relation to the Whitstable beach area concerning expansion of the oyster trestles, poor signage, beach cluttering and other matters causing a potential danger to the public.

“This was also the subject of discussion and resolution at the Whitstable area panel meeting.

“The issues raised are in the process of being fully investigated by several of the council’s departments, alongside consultation with outside organisations with regulatory powers. Some of these issues are quite complex and as is the nature of these, they can take some time to be resolved.

“Community Committee’s recommendation about Whitstable beach raises a number of issues we are currently looking into, and there will be a report to a future council meeting.”

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