Monday, 17 March 2014

Give your view! DEFRA launch public consultation on the de-designation on Walpole Bay for bathing

Walpole Bay tidal pool by Chloe Young

Last week, the Thanet Gazette reported that, despite receiving a majority of submissions against de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing, Thanet District Councillors Iris Johnston (Margate Central ward) and Alan Poole (Sir Mose Montefiore ward) referred the bay to DEFRA recommending de-designation. Today, DEFRA launched their consultation. There is a four page report which raises even more questions about how this proposal has reached this point:

The report begins by stating clearly that:
"Information about water quality is not taken into account in making a decision."
Remember that, folks! Wasn't most of the fuss in February being about the fear of signage that would have to go up in 2015 because it would fail to pass the new regulations. The de-designation process is actually about the number of users. The DEFRA report points out in some detail, that over the last few years, facilities to support bathing have been reduced. Obviously, the responsibility for any reduction in facilities lies squarely with Thanet District Council.
"Facilities at Walpole Bay have been reduced over recent years. In 2009 the beach was awarded a Blue Flag, an award which requires a high level of beach management. Since then lifeguards have been withdrawn and the nearest toilet facilities have been closed. The nearest cafĂ© is at the adjacent beach, Palm Bay. A lift that formerly operated from the top of the cliffs has been closed. 
The beach is, however, close to the amenities of Cliftonville and Margate town centre. The nearest public toilets are now approximately 750m away."
And yet, despite all these reductions in facilities, people still enjoy bathing at Walpole Bay. Imagine what it would be like with the facilities back in working order as they should be.
Then, DEFRA point out in their report that the wording in Thanet District Council's consultation:
'was a leading statement focussing on the perceived threat to to the local tourist industry, rather than on the number of  people bathing at Walpole Bay.' 
There is then a reference to pre-consultation discussions Thanet Council held with a local traders' representative and a residents' association representative between December 2013 and January 2014:
'During December 2013 and January 2014 the Council held discussions with two local hotels, a local traders’ representative and a Residents Association representative. The business representatives felt that dedesignation was preferable to a sign advising against bathing'
This is the first we have heard about discussions prior to the public consultation. 

Who were these representatives of a local traders' and a residents' association? Perhaps the Council or the people in question might be let us know.

Then the statement that:
'DEFRA state that 'Thanet District Council ward members are in favour of dedesignation'.

Is this true? All Ward Councillors of which Wards? Walpole Bay is in Cliftonville West. Have any Councillors from this ward stated they are in favour or de-designation? This would be:
Councillor Linda Aldred
Councillor Doug Clark
Councillor Clive Hart

The report confirms that a majority of respondents were against de-designation:

"There were emailed responses to the consultation from 74 individual members of the 
public. 
• 5 supported dedesignation 
• 36 opposed dedesignation 
• 9 commented specifically on the bathing pool 
• The remainder commented on the proposal but were unclear in their intentions." 

Further scrutiny is probably recommended of those that were unclear in their intentions!

The report finishes by stating that if it is de-designated, DEFRA will discontinue water testing.

So, if you have views about the de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing, please send in your comments to bathingwater@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Why not pop along to the Walpole Bay Bathing Facebook page and let us know your views. And do use the hashtag #walpolebaybathing on twitter.









  

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