Herne Bay Downs beach hut plans could be dropped
A plan to build 40 beach huts on downs in Kent could be scrapped amid fears of their impact on coast erosion. Canterbury City Council had been considering building huts on the downs near Beacon Hill at East Cliff, Herne Bay. In a report to the council’s executive, engineers raised concerns that the huts would prevent coastal protection works from being carried out. A final decision on the scheme is due to be made by councillors on Thursday.
According to the report, the proposed beach hut site is within an active landslip area where engineering works have already been carried out. Council officers and engineers will recommend that councillors vote to keep the downs free from development and work with the Save the Downs campaign group to develop a management plan for its future. Campaigners against the proposal have already launched a bid to get the area registered as a village green to protect it from development. The executive meeting takes place at the Guildhall in Canterbury on Thursday from 1830 BST and is open to the public.
Victory in sight?
Victory is in sight for Herne Bay’s Save Our Downs group after a long fight to stop beach huts being built on the land. The controversial idea to sell off part of the Herne Bay Downs to beach hut developers may be scrapped at a meeting of the council executive today, Thursday 12th August.
It will meet to discuss a new engineering report which says beach huts could not be built, as well as new ideas by council officials to work with the Save Our Downs campaign group to make the area’s environment better for the community. Herne Bay councillor and executive member Peter Lee said:
“The report before the executive says we should abandon the scheme of beach huts in that area and having clear advice from the engineers that is what we will do. I will be highly surprised if, on Thursday, the executive does not decide to abandon the scheme. This was never a council scheme. The council was trying to balance the need of people to have beach huts in the area with the need for the local residents to get to the open space.”
Townspeople under the name of the Save Our Downs group had been campaigning against the idea and had put in a town green application to block the council ever selling any of it off for beach huts.
Canterbury council has set aside £14,000 to help make the most of the Downs with the help of the campaign group. This work will start in the autumn if the executive votes to pass the motion. Kent County Council will decide on this in early autumn and so Canterbury council commissioned engineering reports to see whether the scheme is viable. A council spokesman said:
“The proposed site for the huts near Beacon Hill is within an active landslip area, and underneath the natural grassy slope is a full engineering scheme designed to prevent a landslide. Construction of the huts would prevent monitoring and maintenance of the stabilisation works, the report says.”
Phil Rose, co-ordinator of the Save Our Downs campaign, said:
“The Save Our Downs campaign team is crossing its fingers that the council makes the right decision on Thursday. Once the Downs are whole again, and the threat to their future as a public open space has gone, the local community can start working alongside the council to shape a secure future for this land. We all recognise how important the Downs is to Herne Bay, not just as part of the sea defences, but as a well-loved and much-used natural breathing space for the whole town.”
The final decision will be made in the Guildhall in Canterbury at 6.30pm on Thursday, August 12 in a public meeting.
yourcanterbury.co.uk 12th August 2010
Crunch meeting due on Downs hut plan
Councillors set to decide on controversial development Campaigners hoping to prevent development on the Downs at Herne Bay will have their fingers crossed at a crucial council meeting tonight (Thursday). Protestors from the Save Our Downs campaign are expected to pack the Guildhall in Canterbury to hear councillors discuss plans to build beach huts on the land.
A report issued to councillors recommends that the controversial scheme is scrapped, because of the danger of landslides or interference with coastal protection works. They also suggest the land earmarked for building should be returned to official public open space. Phil Rose, of the Friends of the Downs, said it was a tense time for the campaign:
“The Save Our Downs campaign team is crossing its fingers that the council makes the right decision on Thursday. So are hundreds and hundreds of people in and around Herne Bay who have campaigned for more than a year to keep the Downs unspoilt and undeveloped. If the council says ‘yes’ to ditching the proposal it will be reflecting the wishes of hundreds of local people. Once the Downs are whole again, and the threat to their future as a public open space has gone, the local community can start working alongside the council to shape a secure future for this land.”
The report – which declared the beach huts project “unfeasible” – also recommends that council staff should work with the Friends of the Downs on a management plan to preserve and protect the land for the future. If councillors agree, a public meeting would be held in the autumn to give more information and recruit more volunteers. Mr Rose added:
“We are delighted that we may now be able to develop with the council a management plan to protect and preserve the Downs, so that future generations of townspeople can continue to use the Downs freely and for free, forever”
The group is continuing with its application for village green status for the Downs, to which council bosses have objected. A hearing date is yet to be set. For more information on the campaign, e-mail: email@HerneBayMatters.com. The executive meeting takes place at the Guildhall in Canterbury from 6.30pm and is open to the public.
HB Times 12th August 2010