Safety First—not the Fun Police

by

Ashley Clark


In that splendid castle at Pembroke in Wales, you will find an inscription quoting the lord’s deputy in charge of keeping order on his estates and lands. Translated from the Welsh, it reads: “Wherever you find people, you’ll find trouble,” and after 800 years it is just as true today.

Those who visit our coastal zone have encountered smashed glass on our beaches, nails and heated pebbles from open fires, disposable barbecues abandoned with bins burnt out, reckless and intimidatory conduct by jetskiers and users of other marine craft, tombstoners risking life and limb, inconsiderate cycling along the promenade and so on. Nowhere is there a single statement setting out expectations of good behaviour and respect for this place or those who use it, and the wildlife along our shoreline and in the nature reserves of the immediate hinterland. These cases are not mere anecdotes but evidence gathered, witnessed and reported by those who reside locally and often help by clearing up the mess.

The purpose of a protection order is to provide a legal framework to enable us to deal with such behaviour and to help maintain the quality of life in any particular location. It is not about fining people but changing behaviour, and it has always been a principle of English law that not every breach of the law necessitates a penalty. Often advice will suffice, but that advice needs a foundation. In this area we have a number of orders, and some that apply district-wide. The requirement to have the means to pick up dog mess has had a profound effect on behaviour, so much so that we are having to empty the dog bins more regularly and not a single penalty notice has been issued. In a recent blitz all those checked were found to be carrying bags. A parallel order deals with nitrous oxide abuse, and this plugs the hole in national legislation. Yes, the council does employ a private security firm, and a new contract is about to be commenced — It will not be Kingdom — but the new staff will be directed where they operate and what to concentrate on across the district.

Opposition for opposition’s sake is never a sensible option, and reading Councillor Cornell’s article smacks of a pettifogging lawyer who has not read his brief. The draft order outlines in its text landowners’ rights to grant permission, and the council can do the same on a case-by-case basis, so the examples quoted of the RNLI tractor and the work vehicles of the Oyster Company will not be impeded, nor will the lighting of the Jubilee beacons. The proposal to ban bottles on the beach allows bottles in transit and the floor and veranda of a beach hut is not the beach.

Barbecues of the non-disposable type will be permitted because they do not cause a problem and there is no ban on skimming stones unless it endangers others.

Cllr Cornell alerts us as to his case of crabs, but again the text talks of not causing harm. Catching, observation and return of marine creatures hardly does that.

So, in the final analysis, all we ask is that the users of the coastal zone, be they hooray Henry or champagne socialist, act with a modicum of respect and consideration for others. This is never about the Fun Police, but it is aimed at ensuring that someone’s fun does not mean a visit to accident & emergency or expensive vets bills for others.


You can read the draft PSPO in full, and respond to the consultation by completing our survey on the council website. Alternatively, you can email your comments to consultations@canterbury.gov.uk or write to Mike Bailey, principal policy officer (engagement), Canterbury City Council, Military Road, Canterbury CT1 1YW.


Article by Chris Cornell:


Ashley Clark

Born in Whitstable and educated at Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury, Ashley retired from Kent County Constabulary in 2004 as head of its frontier operations department following some 30 years’ service, much of which was spent working alongside French counterparts. He holds the final diploma of the Institute of Linguists in the French language. Since retirement he has led the voluntary group that manages the award-winning Gorrell Valley Nature Reserve at Whitstable (Duncan Down), having successfully increased it in size with three successful village-green applications. For the last 15 years he has worked as a schools’ history guide specialising in the two world wars and the medieval period and every year has taken hundreds of schoolchildren to the battlefields of France and Belgium. In  2007 he received a Home Office award for promoting respect in the local community. In 2009 he received the Lord Mayor’s award for service to the community. He is a member at the Seasalter Christian Centre. Ashley is widely travelled, a keen swimmer and diver, and likes to swim off Seasalter with his labradors.

Ashley was elected to the council in 2011. He currently chairs the licensing committee and oversees enforcement and open spaces for the district at a strategic level. Previously he challenged his own party to help save Kingsmead Field at Canterbury. He helped spirited locals in their campaign to prevent tree felling by Network Rail and negotiated a “peace deal” in that area. He has actively encouraged developers to protect land by the creation of village greens as part of new developments and more recently has helped residents of Westbere with a village-green application.


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5 Comments

  1. Steve Woolf

    Fascinating to see, for once, the true nature that underpins conservative (with a small or large C) thinking revealed by Cllr. Ashley Clark’s opening paragraph in his response to the discussion about the proposed PSPO. He quotes a Welsh lord’s deputy from 800 years ago: “Wherever you find people, you’ll find trouble”. How revealing! The people who rule over us have always been terrified of “the mob”, “the working class”, “the great unwashed” or other phrases they may use. The philosophy is that people have to be “controlled”. Remember ASBOs? They weren’t a great success if I remember correctly.

    No sane person would claim that sensible and proportionate laws are not necessary, but you do not use a sledgehammer (the PSPOs) to crack a nut (a small amount of bad behaviour by some individuals). I do not see why I cannot take a bottle of wine and a small picnic down to Tankerton beach with my wife and a couple of friends without being fined by a private enforcement company with an eye on the profits for their shareholders. I grew up in the 50s when law enforcement was the job of the police, serving their communities – what has happened to our society that this is no longer the case?

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  2. Jo Bartley (@TootingJo)

    I thought Whitstable might want to be a welcoming place for tourists? Why on earth would we want to stop responsible visitors bringing a bottle of wine and a disposable barbecue to the beach? How embarrassing if we have to have ‘no fun allowed’ signs all over the place. These rules are not at all proportionate to the problems. The only time I’ve ever seen a bottle problem is when the bins are full. We need more bins, not a ban on people enjoying a nice glass of wine as they watch the sun go down. I hope lots of people will fill in the consultation and stop these nanny state plans.

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  3. Chris Boys

    I walk the beach on a regular basis, yes l do see some anti social behaviour results by trippers and locals alike but its not exactly an epidemic. Suggest the whole package needs looking at again. Encroaching nanny state regulations are never popular particularly when they are virtually unenforceable. Any move by making anything enforceable by a private set of jobsworth would make me want to burn a palate!! Concentrate on littering, that’s what most residents want, bins, bins, bins and not those piddling little things with pretty pink bags that blow inside out with a puff of wind spreading everything far and wide. PS ditch that idiot prime minister, he’s an embarrassment.

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