How many readers remember Anne Wilks, I wonder?
She was a great campaigner for Whitstable, for the preservation of its green spaces, and for the quality of life of its residents.
Her and I struck up an unlikely friendship back in the 90s: me a dishevelled journalist with unsavoury habits, and her a grande dame of the old school, very proper, very neat, with formidable energy and a fierce, rapier-like intelligence.
She is commemorated in the town by having a right of way named after her: Wilks Way, between Island Wall and Wave Crest.
Sadly she passed away some years ago, but I often find myself thinking about her.
Most recently it was because of a letter I received containing a cheque for 50p. The letter also included the annual report for the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WOFC) and the Chairman’s statement, signed by GB Green.
The cheque was a dividend for the one share I hold in the company, which I bought on Anne Wilks’ recommendation, in order to be able to attend the AGM.
Here is a paragraph from the Chairman’s statement: “We continue to fight vigorously against the village green application which is taking a huge toll on our time and finances. The application (sic) should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for bringing this pointless and damaging claim which, if successful, will lead to the sea defences deteriorating and Whitstable being at risk of flood.”
He’s referring to the application by the Whitstable Beach Campaign to have the beach designated as a village green.
It was Mrs Wilks who was responsible for registering a number of the village greens dotted in and around Whitstable, including parts of the beach west of the caravan park near Saxon Shore.
So you have to ask, if this is the case, why haven’t the sea defences deteriorated at this end of town, and why hasn’t Island Wall been flooded in the intervening years?
Might it be because, actually, there is no risk whatsoever to the sea defences as a consequence of the beach acquiring village green status: that this is just scaremongering by the Chairman of the WOFC because he doesn’t want anyone interfering with his plans?
Which brings to mind the other issue affecting the beach right now: the unsightly, and frankly dangerous, proliferation of Oyster trestles which have sprouted up on the foreshore near the Horsebridge.
Who ever thought that having “ a sea of bayonets”, as Cllr Ashley Clark described them, sticking up under the water on one of Kent’s most popular beaches, famed for its water sports, was a good idea?
It’s true that under instruction from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) the spikes have been bent over, which now makes them a sea of hooks instead: just as hazardous to unsuspecting shipping, and even more likely to snag on lines or clothing, possibly leading to the “worst credible outcome of severe injury or fatality” to quote from the MMO report.
What is truly astounding about this state of affairs is the fact that the WOFC has been able to put up these structures, without permission, and apparently with no comeback from the relevant authorities.
If you or I were to put up an unlicensed lean-to on the back of our house, the council would have it torn down immediately. In the case of the WOFC, however, it seems that anything goes.
If you too are worried about the industrialisation of our foreshore, and the danger this imposes, the Whitstable Beach Campaign would like to hear from you. Just look up their website on the internet.
The spirit of Mrs Wilks lives on.
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From The Whitstable Gazette 15/03/18
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Thanks for reposting this article from the Gazette, it is important that people who live in Whitstable think about this and that a balance is kept. Our family likes to sail in the area and that has been affected by the beds like you mention. I undertstand that the oysters and the WOFC restaurants have brought many to the town, but they maybe taking things too far. Its only a matter of time before a Jet ski rider not from town comes acropper. Fingers crossed they understand the buoys!
Thanks. What got me was the fact that they didn’t even have planning permission for this enterprise. The fact they “own” the beach isn’t relevant. You’re not allowed to develop anything, even if it is on your own land, without planning permission. Given that this is, as you say, possibly dangerous, that makes it even more urgent that the oyster frames are removed immediately.