By Councillor Val Kenny / Latest News / / 0 Comments

Last Monday, the Public Inquiry began to determine an appeal by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company against an enforcement notice made by Canterbury City Council in 2018 against the oyster trestle development, which was built without planning consent and which the council ordered the company to remove.

The public enquiry is online and scheduled to last upwards of ten days. Barristers have been appointed for both Canterbury City Council (who made the original decision) and the Whitstable Beach Campaign who have been designated a Rule 6 Party (an interested party given special status in respect to the appeal). Both parties are allowed to submit evidence to the Inspector but their approach in this matter has been different. Canterbury City Council have chosen to predominantly focus on the grounds by which they refused the application – namely that the trestles pose an unknown environmental threat and have a detrimental impact on the heritage of the Whitstable Conservation area. The Whitstable Beach Campaign have entered a wider range of evidence highlighting the risk the trestles cause to maritime navigation and loss to visual amenity for residents.

The Whitstable Beach Campaign’s evidence has been key in appraising the inspector of whether or not the trestles in the enforcement areas would still constitute a ‘public benefit’ if environmental damage were proved. The WOFC have entered evidence to suggest that the farming of oysters in the area has been key to both the economic regeneration of the area and is essential for the tourist economy going forward.

Unfortunately, this enquiry only covers approximately 18% of the total number of trestles – those which are above the mid tide mark and as such under the enforcement powers of the city council. Those beyond this mark are the responsibility of the landowner(WOFC) and the Marine Maritime Organisation who have a role in ensuring the safe passage of craft in the sea.

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Local MP Rosie Duffield is currently lobbying the DEFRA on whether the MMO,  as a light touch regulator predominantly interested in shipping, is suitability to ensure the safety of pleasure craft and recreational swimmers so close to our coast.

Local councillors Valerie Kenny & Chris Cornell have been working with the Beach Campaign in highlighting how the economy of Whitstable is complimented, and not reliant on, the farming of oysters in this area. They have presented evidence in support of that provided by Patricia Dixon & Hilary Metcalfe, local residents and economists.

Click here for all the evidence submitted by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery’s Company.

Click here for all the evidence submitted by the Whitstable Beach Campaign

The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company contend that Whitstable is a ‘one industry’ town with a global recognition because of the Whitstable Oyster. They argue that being unable to farm oysters within the enforcement area would irreconcilably damage their accommodation/hospitality businesses and the tourism – citing the success of the Oyster Festival and the number of products sold on Etsy associated with links to both Whitstable and Oyster as evidence of how the ‘Oyster Brand’ is essential to our town.

Labour’s local argument has been that:

  1. historically our town has been famous for more than just oysters. In contrast to other seaside towns – Whitstable was historically famous for salt, fish, oysters and copperas.
  2. the regeneration of Whitstable drew heavily on over £900,000 of public investment in regeneration our buildings between 1990 and 2008. This investment in the fabric of our town encouraged artists and independent shopkeepers meaning that conventionally we are are as well known as being an ‘arty, foody, fashion hub’ as we are a heritage destination. Our reputation as a gastronomic hub had started was starting to get national attention well before the WOFC started trestle farming in 2010.
  3. there is little evidence that the ending of oyster farming inside the enforcement area would destroy our economy. Vacancy rates in town are low and the accommodation the WOFC provide is still attractive to visitors. Historically the council have believed that light industry such as that evident at the John and Joseph Wilson Business Parks is as important as tourism to our town.
  4. the maritime heritage of Whitstable is far wider than just oyster farming. The Whitstable Harbour, which prizes and protects this heritage, doesn’t include any oyster farming.
  5. recently the council has invested heavily in allowing people get on the water with paddle boarding, kite surfing and commercial chartered boats all increasing. The trestles are a threat to this emerging business.
  6. the ‘Oyster Brand’ is just that – a ‘means of reinforcing local identity’ and helping shape the perception of visitors. The WOFC isn’t the only person who contributes to the success of that brand and the Oyster Festival wouldn’t fall to pieces without them. The Oyster Festival was actually set up in 1989 without their involvement.
  7. Claims that the Whitstable Oyster is as important to Whitstable as the Cathedral is to Canterbury are ludicrous and evidence that some places (i.e. Canterbury Cathedral) become so synonymous with an area that the approach to marketing of them consciously focusses on other ‘lesser known’ interests. Online metrics are often a better indication of the intent of marketing than the result, after all Dolce & Gabanna recently tweeted Whitstable was in Cornwall! Whitstable Oyster Farming has recently been in the news for contamination and Norovirus.
  8. search engine optimisation data presented to show the tangible link between the WOFC and Whitstable is weak and misleading. Since 2004 Google Trends has seen a near doubling of interest in the term ‘Whitstable’ and a halving searches for ‘Whitstable Oyster’. Most of the searches for ‘Whitstable Oyster’ relate to the Festival and not the Oyster Company.

As an online public enquiry, it has been difficult for local councillors to participate as fully as we would have hoped – however we have been a key part of the proceedings.  

More detailed evidence presented by councillors was initially refused by the Planning Inspector but detailed written notes of Cllr Kenny’s speech were entered onto the record. She has also been able to cross examine witnesses from the Oyster Company and present a closing statement highlighting local people’s concerns.

Information we have been able to provide has been vital in helping make the case against the WOFC.

Click here to view local councillors evidence package, including references

Click here for Val’s written statement and closing remarks.

We await the outcome of the enquiry with great interest.

By Councillor Val Kenny / EnvironmentLatest News / / 0 Comments

The covid -19 crisis has torn a hole in city budgets decimating urban economies . An international coalition of cities believes that the only path forward is funding green stimulus plans focused on job creation. The newly released Mayor’s Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, released July 15th by C40 cities, an international coalition of urban leaders focused on fighting climate change and promoting sustainable development, was developed by the C40 Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. The plan offers a green prescription for financial stabilisation that emphasises several very familiar ideas-renewable energy investment, energy efficient buildings, improved mass transit, and spending on new parks and green space.

One of its recommendations is that “all residents will live in 15 minutes cities” The decentralisation of services has become known as the 15 minute city, where you can do your job, go to school, see your doctor and be entertained all within a 15 minute radius of where you live.

The idea was developed by Professor Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne:

“The idea of ‘la ville du quart d’heure’ is one in which daily urban necessities are within 15 minutes reach on foot or by bike. Work, home, shops education, healthcare – in Morenos vision, these should be available within the same time a commuter might once have waited on a railway platform.”

As infection fears have limited transit and travel this vision of close-knit districts supported by infrastructure which allows bikers and walkers to rule-may be coming of age Several cities around the world have used lockdowns to kick start car-free infrastructure projects. Milan has added 22 miles of bike lanes downtown and is building a 8.5 mile green corridor to thread together neighbourhoods. Ottawa has announced plans for 15 minute neighborhoods before the pandemic and Portland in Oregon has sped up plans to ensure 90% of residents live in “complete neighbourhoods” and have turned 90 miles of roads into neighbourhood greenways. In London Sadiq Khan is pushing for an extensive bike lane network. Paris leads the way with installation of a regime of “corona cycleways” to ease transit crowding and prevent traffic surging back into cities.

Melbourne has enormous urban sprawl which was meant to allow it to build more affordable housing-but that has only led to “unaffordable living”. Local leaders are now shifting transportation policy, including 40 kilometers of new bike lanes and creating 20 minute neighbourhoods.

“Every city is talking about how to leverage the moment and reposition itself and focus on a sustainable future,” she says. “If we don’t leverage these moments to make material change, we’re crazy” (Mayor Sally Capp)

In Montreal 186 miles of cycling and pedestrian paths have been added. It supports local business. “We want to encourage people to buy local and forget Amazon” she said.

The speed at which pedestrian, biking and scooter infrastructure has been ramped up during the pandemic shows how quickly things can change. Small tweaks to zoning or permitting for sidewalk cafes and cycling infrastructure can build momentum for larger shifts when budgets allow. As Moreno who created the idea of the 15 minute city states”the idea is not to wage war against cars but it simply a way to help shift priorities”

“A crisis does have a way of reeling(healing?) what’s already broken, if cities aren’t using the revealing nature of the pandemic, how it’s highlighting disparities and racial inequities, shame on them. As difficult as it’s going to be it’s a real opportunity” Bosacker

These are just a few of the ideas that are now being implemented in favour of ‘complete neighbourhoods’ or the 15 minute city. So many of these ideas are inspirational and opportune. Now more than ever we need to rebuild our. Communities in which local businesses can thrive and people can live in clean and safe homes which are in reach of all the facilities for living. In its local plan Canterbury is stating that they wish to create a district where Health and wellbeing are nourished it would would be good to see reflected in the Local Plan.

By Councillor Val Kenny / Latest News / / 0 Comments

Gorrell ward councillors have this week again formally objected to the license application to put an addition 120 seats on the beach in the land adjacent to the Forge, 1 Sea Wall (LAPFV/20/00850).

This is the second time in which the application has been submitted and whilst this proposal is for less seats (the original was 200) and positioning of some of them behind the sea wall – there are still some substantial concerns.

People can object by emailing [email protected] by 29th July. All objections should be marked for attention of Anton Walden and include your full name and postal address. Our objection is published in full below.

Gorrell Ward Councillors welcome the efforts made by the Whitstable Oyster Fisheries company to revise their plans for expansion of the Forge from their original application dated the 3rd June (LAPFV/20/00850). We appreciate that the new application (LAPRE/20/01008) is for less seating and voluntarily offers additional information on the use of technology to reduce queuing, the provision of more public toilets and assurances that live or recorded music will not be played.

However, after some consideration, we still object to the application. Our objections are limited to those referred to under Section 182 of the Licensing Act. Namely that we believe the above application presents a risk to:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance 
  • the protection of children from harm

We believe that this application is not a minor variation but worthy of a completely new license application. Section 8.62 of Revised Guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 states:

“Changes to the layout should be referred to the full variation process if they could potentially have an adverse impact on the promotion of the licensing objective…by increasing the capacity for drinking on the premises and affecting access between the public part of the premises and the rest of the premises or the street or the public way.”

The application proposed still doubles the current outdoor seating of the venue and sees them operate on a new site accessed across a public thoroughfare which substantially complicates the safe delivery of food and drink. Since the original application the Council has written a Coastal Management Plan which specifically mentions excessive littering in this area; a new application would allow for the council to add conditions to the licence preventing the use of single use plastic and having a substantial effect on the local environment.

Our objections relate to:

 1.PREVENTION OF CRIME AND DISORDER

Police are frequently called to disperse groups of young people drinking on the beach at the edge of Keams Yard Car Park and on the beach between Keams Yard and the Neptune. In the eight weeks prior to the first application we were aware of five separate occasions in which we directly liaised with police to ensure additional checks were made. We regularly receive complaints from residents in Sea Wall of loud music, abusive and intimidating behaviour, public littering and fighting on the beach in this space. A regular pattern of this behaviour saw Kent Police issue a dispersal order to tackle anti social behaviour on the weekend beginning the 27th June 2020.

Licensed premises with seating on the beach operate later licenses and tend to disperse people who have not purchased alcohol from the premises and are substantially smaller than this in size. Without a later serving, these additional chairs will attract people drinking in this area without any enforcement of the licensee who would have gone home.

The license still includes no reference to what, if any security operation, will be offered to protect public safety in an area well used by pedestrians for evening walks. The application does not specify how the land will be sectioned off meaning that people asked to leave the premises may simply be escorted further away from the venue and present a continued risk to customers and members of the public walking by. We doubt that security staff will be able to ensure people do not enter the premises who are intoxicated, carrying weapons or drugs. There is no reference to additional CCTV as a deterrent and we remain unconvinced that it would work on such a large location after dark.

  1. PUBLIC SAFETY

Sea Wall is a no through road which is difficult for emergency vehicles to access. Chandlers Way is a privately-owned road and frequently blocked by people staying at the Fisherman’s Huts. The only reliable way of accessing the site would be via the beach which is full of hazards including sitting boats, pedestrians and uneven ground.

Open fires are a particular problem along this section with unextinguished barbeques having caused damage to public bins in the area last summer and scorching of some of the nearby groynes. They are the current subject of a consultation on a revision to the Public Sector Protection Order based on local concerns. Additional combustible materials, including a decked area, present an arson risk.

Queuing at the Forge already presents a substantial trip hazard as queues form by its side servery hatch. Having reported this issue to licensing enforcement, new signage has been erected, however queuing along on the paved thoroughfare is common and of a particular problem to disabled residents who can’t move onto the gravel beach.

The use of ‘a mobile app, or similar’ may go some way to prevent additional queueing in this area but there is little detail as to how this system would work and whether this system would be a permanent, rather than temporary feature to support social distancing, post COVID. It is perfectly believable that the wording above could relate to some sort of wireless guest calling/paging service which would still see customers queue to order and queue to collect food. It does not explicitly state that it will have a waiter service.

The use of glass receptacle at the venue would provide a risk to users of the beach if not cleared thoroughly – this risk is so significant that the council is currently consulting on changing the Public Sector Protection Order to remove glass from this area (this would not cover licensed premises) and has made the issue of harm to animals central to its recent high profile advertising campaign near the site.  A totally new application, which may be warranted given the percentage size increase in capacity, would be welcomed as a means for the council to add conditions to the licence about replacing glass with compostable plastic glasses.

There is no lighting along the beach path at night, meaning that customers leaving after dark may be at risk.

3.PREVENTION OF PUBLIC NUISANCE

The Forge currently does not have toilets available to the public and a substantial increase to its size would put create real problems. Residents in nearby Sea Street report that customers from the Forge frequently publicly urinate behind the Fisherman’s Huts or in the shelters on Sea Wall. The public unisex toilet at the Horsebridge Centre is over 160 metres from the Forge and closes at 8pm between the 15th March and the 31st of October. The Forge plans to run until 9pm.

The submission of a planning application to create additional toilets at the back of the Goldfinch Art Gallery is welcome (CA/20/00347) however as this application has not been decided upon and it would be unwise for us to consider that it will be successful and as such is able to alleviate this concern. It has a substantive number of objections from local residents and will be decided in front of the Planning Committee. 

Having said that, the current planning application for the proposed toilet blocks includes provision for 3 cubicled toilets (one with disabled access) which we believe to be insufficient. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 allows local authorities to specify requirements for toilets made available for use by members of the public. The British Standards Institute Code of practice for sanitary installations (BS 6465-1:2006) suggests that a toilet without a urinal should have two toilets for the first thirty customers and then an additional toilet for every additional customer up to 150. This code would suggest that five and not three toilets should be provided. We raise this here as it is not a valid reason to oppose the planning application but does have a material impact on the ability of the licensee to protect local residents.

Public litter is a particular problem in this section of the beach. In June 2020 over 3,000 people signed a petition asking the council to trial larger bins in this area; in response to this call the council and SERCO reported that access to the stretch of beach the Neptune and Pearsons Arm is particularly difficult and did limit the litter collection options available to them on this site. 

Residents complain that the problem of litter is particularly difficult during the evening where SERCO street cleaning staff are not on duty to clear bins. The bins often overflow, the contents picked at by foxes and birds overnight leaving litter strewn all over the place by the morning. The problem is so bad that local residents clean this section of the beach once a month through the Whitstable Marine Environment Group. SERCO cleaners, though out early in the morning, often lack the capacity to adequately clear the site until the late morning the day after. The expansion of premises in this area would attract rats. There is no detail about a annual contribution to additional public bins in the area or there plans for litter picking in the voluntary disclosures made in the application.

The playing of loud music at the new location would cause substantial distress to residents of Sea Wall many of who have balconies overlooking the site. Whilst WOFC have given a voluntary assurance that this is not their plan, there current licence allows for them to play music and as this is an amendment there is no way in which the council could enforce this as part of the licence.

4.PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM HARM

This is a very popular area for families to walk. 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.

Nine of the 14 Fisherman’s Huts which are located less than twenty yards away from the Forge are advertised as having children’s rooms. Photographs on the website advertising these properties show large doors which can be opened to let children freely roam in the space directly behind the sea wall but directly adjacent to this new large site. The Whitstable Yacht Club directly next to the proposed site runs youth training courses for those aged 8-16 and is the home for boats moored by a number of local schools and youth organisations.

Assurances that the Fisherman’s Hut belong to the WOFC is an irrelevant argument unless they plan not to hire the properties to families, which they could not legally do.. In fact the new seating arrangement places seating closer to the huts than under the previous plan (albeit where they currently are) and the new planning application at the Goldfinch includes two new holiday lets which, if granted, would have a balcony overlooking this site.

We call upon the Licensing Authority to reject the above application and seek the comments of local police. However, if the licence was granted we believe careful consideration should be given to conditions including:

  1. SIA approved security staff on duty after 6pm
  2. The use of compostable plastic glasses for use on the beach. This could be done by the WOFC submitting a new license application rather than a variation
  3. Conditions that the licensee purchases additional bin units for the surrounding area
  4. Two licensed premise holders being on site at all times due to the split nature of the site
  5. No music to be played (if this is legally possible)
  6. Waitered table service including a full menu to ensure that the site is used for the ancillary sale of alcohol and not as its immediate use

We understand that concerns related to anti social behaviour are significantly linked to the planning application for the provision of toilets at the Goldfinch and as such would recommend that no decision is made until we can have clarity on whether this has passed. 

 

Similarly, the application’s reference to a further planning application on the land currently leased to Whitstable Yacht Club has yet to be submitted. I believe that the Yacht Club are currently exploring legal action on the ownership and plans for this space. We understand that this license could be granted in theory before the legal issue with the Yacht Club is resolved but given the extent of public opposition, we would advise the applicant to pursue and resolve the above issue first.



 

Gorrell Ward Councillors object to an application listed above to add an extra one hundred and twenty(120) seats for customers on beach land adjacent to the current premises. Our objections are limited to those referred to under Section 182 of the Licensing Act. Namely that we believe the above application presents a risk to:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance 
  • the protection of children from harm

We believe that this application is not a minor variation but worthy of a completely new license application. Section 8.62 of Revised Guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 states:

“Changes to the layout should be referred to the full variation process if they could potentially have an adverse impact on the promotion of the licensing objective…by increasing the capacity for drinking on the premises and affecting access between the public part of the premises and the rest of the premises or the street or the public way.”

The application proposed almost triples the current outdoor seating of the venue with no plan or indication of how the current premise could provide additional meals and every indication that the additional seats would largely be used for alcohol consumption without food. Access to the new site goes across a busy public thoroughfare used by cyclists and pedestrians. Situating chairs in the land adjacent to the Forge would likely block access to the public way. As the chairs are not placed near or adjacent to a public highway we also believe a full planning application should be submitted alongside this licensing application.

Our objections relate to:

1.PREVENTION OF CRIME AND DISORDER

Police are frequently called to disperse groups of young people drinking on the beach at the edge of Keams Yard Car Park and on the beach between Keams Yard and the Neptune. In the last eight weeks we are aware of five separate occasions in which we have directly liaise with police to ensure additional checks are made. We regularly receive complaints from residents in Sea Wall of loud music, abusive and intimidating behaviour, public littering and fighting on the beach in this space. Police are called on almost a weekly basis to disperse large groups from Reeves Beach during the summer.

Licensed premises with seating on the beach operate later licenses and tend to disperse people who have not purchased alcohol from the premises and are substantially smaller than this in size. Without a later serving, these additional chairs will attract people drinking in this area without any enforcement of the licensee who would have gone home.

The license includes little guidance as to what, if any security operation, will be offered to protect public safety in an area well used by pedestrians for evening walks. The application does not specify how the land will be sectioned off meaning that people asked to leave the premises may simply be escorted further away from the venue and present a continued risk to customers and members of the public walking by. We doubt that security staff will be able to ensure people do not enter the premises who are intoxicated, carrying weapons or drugs. There is no reference to additional CCTV as a deterrent and we remain unconvinced that it would work on such a large location after dark.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY

Sea Wall is a no through road which is difficult for emergency vehicles to access. Chandlers Way is a privately owned road and frequently blocked by people staying at the Fisherman’s Huts. The only reliable way of accessing the site would be via the beach which is full of hazards including sitting boats, pedestrians and uneven ground.

Open fires are a particular problem along this section with unextinguished barbeques having caused damage to public bins in the area last summer and scorching of some of the nearby groynes. Additional combustible materials present an arson risk.

Queuing at the Forge already presents a substantial trip hazard as queues form by its side servery hatch. The use of glass receptacle at the venue would provide a risk to users of the beach if not cleared thoroughly. There is no lighting along the beach path at night, meaning that customers leaving after dark may be at risk.

3.PREVENTION OF PUBLIC NUISANCE

The Forge does not have toilets available to the public and a substantial increase to its size would put create real problems. Residents in nearby Sea Street report that customers from the Forge frequently publicly urinate behind the Fishermans Huts or in the shelters on Sea Wall. The public unisex toilet at the Horsebridge centre is over 160 metres from the Forge and closes at 8pm between the 15th March and the 31st of October. The Forge plans to run until 9pm.

Public litter is a particular problem in this section of the beach. As local councillors we have petitioned the council for additional rubbish bins and additional bins were trialled in the area last summer. Residents complain that the problem is particularly difficult during the evening where SERCO street cleaning staff are not on duty to clear bins. The bins often overflow, the contents picked at by foxes and birds overnight leaving litter strewn all over the place by the morning. The problem is so bad that local residents clean this section of the beach once a month through the Whitstable Marine Envrionment Group. SERCO cleaners, though out early in the morning, often lack the capacity to adequately clear the site until the late morning the day after. The expansion of premises in this area would attract rats

The playing of loud music at the new location would cause substantial distress to residents of Sea Wall many of who have balconies overlooking the site and have petitioned us directly and would oppose a planning application on the site which we believe should also be submitted. Additional music, dust and smells would constitute a a reduction in their living amenity.

4.PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM HARM

This is a very popular area for families to walk. 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.

Nine of the 14 Fisherman’s Huts which are located less than twenty yards away from the Forge are advertised as having children’s rooms. Photographs on the website advertising these properties show large doors which can be opened to let children freely roam in the space directly behind the sea wall but directly adjacent to this new large site. The Whitstable Yacht Club directly next to the proposed site runs youth training courses for those aged 8-16 and is the home for boats moored by a number of local schools and youth organisations.

We call upon the Licensing Authority to reject the above application and seek the comments of local police. However, if the licence was granted we believe careful consideration should be given to conditions including:

  1. SIA approved security staff on duty after 6pm
  2. The use of compostable plastic glasses for use on the beach
  3. Conditions that the licensee purchases additional bin units for the surrounding area
  4. Two licensed premise holders being on site at all times due to the split nature of the site
  5. No music to be played
  6. Waitered table service including a full menu to ensure that the site is used for the ancillary sale of alcohol and not as its immediate use