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Whitstable anti-litter campaigner calls for action after beach revellers spotted defecating in gardens

An anti-litter campaigner has demanded urgent action after rowdy revellers were spotted littering and defecating in gardens and on beaches.

It comes after fed-up locals said boy-racers and louts binging on laughing gas are making living in Whitstable a "nightmare".

A lady pushes her pram through the litter and debris discarded in Whitstable photo: Tim Stubbings
A lady pushes her pram through the litter and debris discarded in Whitstable photo: Tim Stubbings

Pictures sent to KentOnline this morning showed the aftermath of beer and wine bottles, plastic bags and metal cannisters strewed across West Quay.

Local campaigner Julie Wassmer, says residents are being exposed to a public health risk from the coronavirus with the "unacceptable amount" of litter being "recklessly" dumped.

The author said: "The bins are all overflowing – rubbish is dumped beside them, gets kicked along the beach walkway,

"Local people have been trying to clear the detritus themselves, and exposing themselves to plastic and stainless steel surfaces on which studies have shown Covid-19 can live for up to three days.

Litter left strewn across Whitstable sea front Photo: John Stoddart
Litter left strewn across Whitstable sea front Photo: John Stoddart

She said the said the situation had been exacerbated by the closures of pubs until July 4, meaning visitors had no where else to go but the beach.

The hospitality sector would usually welcome tourists to Kent's coastal areas at this time of year.

But many fear the presence of visitors is doing more damage to the local economy as businesses are not yet fully open to capitalise, or are only offering scaled-back takeaway services.

Locals have called for drastic action in a bid to tackle the issue and have pleaded to the local MP, police and local authorities to help.

A petition calling for Canterbury City Council to act was launched yesterday and has amassed more than 1,000 signatures in under 24 hours.

It calls for clearer signage to be introduced as well as hi-tech "big belly" bins and evening seafront rubbish collections.

Local campaigner Julie Wassmer has called for urgent action over debate
Local campaigner Julie Wassmer has called for urgent action over debate

And while welcome by some, others like Julie claim authorities have been sluggish to respond and does not feel deliberations over new bins will be either time or money well spent.

First trialled in the UK six years ago, so-called Big Belly bins have solar panels on their lids which powers a compactor inside that crushes rubbish.

They send notification's to councils and refuse collectors to inform them once they need emptying.

But critics claim they are ugly, expensive and overflow unless rubbish collection services are arranged to empty them promptly.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council faced a backlash last year after pictures emerged online of overflowing Big Belly Bins they had spent £83,000 on in response to rising visitor numbers.

Julie said: "I have signed the petition calling for Canterbury City Council to act on the current pressing situation in Whitstable but I don’t believe the demand for 'Belly Bins' is a good one at this time.

The Big Belly Bin at Folkestone Coastal Park was criticised
The Big Belly Bin at Folkestone Coastal Park was criticised

"The council has already dismissed the call for these bins due to logistical reasons and pointed out that in the past when larger bins were installed, local residents complained they were unsightly and pressed for their removal.

"The bins are sophisticated and expensive​and when they were put in place in Norfolk they were actually funded by local traders – Whitstable’s local traders are in no position to fund these due to their inability to trade throughout lockdown.

"If the opening of pubs and restaurants results in less of a problem on the beach then we’ll only find ourselves lumbered with expensive bins that residents may well complain about again.

There are also complaints they are unhygienic as they require people to pull a mechanism to open which many point out has cross-contamination risks in the time of Covid-19.

Instead Julie has called for increased bin collections along the seafront and car parks throughout the day and at weekends.

She added lessons could also be learnt from Brighton which had deployed council enforcement officers patrolling the beach until 8pm, and handing out £150 on the spot fines.

Kent's beaches and seafronts have been hit by high volumes Photo: @ChrisShdtch
Kent's beaches and seafronts have been hit by high volumes Photo: @ChrisShdtch

A 48 hour dispersal order came into force at 4pm yesterday which means anyone found causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress can be made to leave the area.

And although campaigners have welcomed the measures they say it must be complemented with adequate police numbers.

Julie said: "Although I welcomed the dispersal order put in place by Kent Police following the press attention on this issue last week, I am dismayed to learn that residents calling for help could not get through by dialling 101.

She claimed on resident was unable to get help at a time when she had tried to report damage done to the exterior of her property, including the theft of a decorative stone.

"We need urgent action from both the council and the police and not for this issue to be kicked into the long grass with discussions and votes on belly bins," she added.

But Canterbury City Council said it was wrong to suggest they are not concerned about the enormous amount of litter being left behind and were taking a number of steps to address it.

Litter near Whitstable Beach this weekend. Picture: Brandon Cordery (37376403)
Litter near Whitstable Beach this weekend. Picture: Brandon Cordery (37376403)

It added responsibility ultimately laid with those "lazy and selfish people" discarding their rubbish.

A spokesperson said: "We are determined to tackle it with or without a petition.

"It goes without saying the responsibility always lies with the lazy and selfish people who leave their rubbish behind - is it that hard to put it in the bin, if that bin is full find another or take it home?

"Why should our council taxpayers fork out for the constant clean up?"

The authority sought to give reassurances to residents and explained it would have 1,100 litre bins in place next weekend, including at Keams Yard, Hampton and Tankerton.

It added: "It’s worth saying that several years ago we purchased 15 large roll-top bin shelters and roll-top bins for Whitstable to cope with summer demand - fish and chip boxes and bottles don’t work in anything other than a very large bin - and it would have also meant a small bin truck could do a collection.

"Why should our council taxpayers fork out for the constant clean up?"

"Immediately upon installation of the bin shelters in Whitstable, a local campaign was started against them and councillors took the view we should remove them all. We would ask for the public's support once they are installed."

"While this weekend's weather has been rather unpredictable, we have also maximised the number of enforcement officers on duty and worked with our street cleaning and waste contractor Serco to ensure every bit of resource we can muster is thrown at cleaning up along the whole coast.

"Long-planned anti-littering signage has been moved forward and will go up along the whole coast as soon as possible.

"Finally, we have committed publicly to pulling together a multi-agency coastal management plan and that piece of work will be ready very soon."

"The fantastic weather and the fact many people are furloughed so have started their summer holiday before they normally would means these problems have arrived earlier than normal and seem to be worse although it is hard to tell if we are comparing it to life during the most restrictive part of lockdown where everyone was told to stay at home apart from an hour’s exercise."

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