“Seaside hell” in the sun

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Nobody is going anywhere as Camber traffic grinds to a halt

As I was walking back from the old Mary Stanford lifeboat house on Saturday, I was shocked at the level of noise coming from Camber beach. My immediate thoughts were with the residents who have to put up with this and so much more when the sun comes out, so I got in touch with John Bradford of Camber Parish Council because I felt he would give a good overview of how local people are feeling.

“Residents have a number of major concerns and issues which arise each summer and seem irresolvable. However, since Covid and the changing of work/life patterns, they happen more frequently. Holiday-makers and day-trippers are at the resort at other times than the traditional six week summer.

“When the Prime Minister said that people could travel anywhere it was like a free for all. Thousands descended on Camber at various times including term time and the traditional working week. This continues.

“Yesterday, Sunday 17 July, saw the greatest number of cars and visitors in memory. The estimate, based on previous record-keeping and memories over thirty years was 30,000 +/- on the beach.

Seriously dangerous numbers

“It might seem that the vast expanse of sand can accommodate that number, but at high tide it is a seriously dangerous number in terms of beach and water safety. It is believed that with the staffing resources available – coastal officers, RNLI, car park stewards and beach team that 15,000-18,000 is the optimum.

“I have spoken to many staff and residents this morning, Monday 18 July, who recount many ‘horror’ stories of their experiences with visitors this past weekend and these are increasingly more in number. Despite social media warnings about staying out of the sun these were contradicted by many weather reports suggesting that if you wanted to stay cool you should get to the coast!

“As is clear from posts on social media, all the car parks were full by 9.30 am on Sunday. Notices were posted by the agencies beyond Camber stating this fact, but the drivers kept coming. The tail-back for parking at Western and/or entering the village stretched back to the A259, with possibly up to 2-3 miles of static traffic.

Nothing could move

“Entry to Camber from the East (Lydd) meant, with the illegal parking on the verges and roadside, that the vehicles met bonnet to bonnet. There was a total impasse where nothing could move. Buses were cancelled, emergency vehicles had no access, carers were unable to reach clients and meal deliveries halted.

“Those wishing to travel out were trapped, those wishing to get to work stopped. This happens too for the school buses in term-time and for the working public, as visitors flock here outside weekends and holiday period.

“The double yellow lines temporarily extended west from Camber to beyond the golf club were mainly ineffective as people parked to walk into the resort. Then, of course, those who obey the restrictions seek parking anywhere around the village. This includes the pavements and in front of drives blocking residents in.

Attacks on local people

“One of the physical attacks you may have heard about was an attack on a woman asking a motorist not to park across her drive. You may also know of the toilet attendant attacked and beaten around the face as he tried to close up. Verbal and physical attacks on staff and residents are reported to me far more frequently now.

“Police numbers are limited, as we know, and are concentrated on the beach and the large number of lost children every day. Traffic is no longer a priority. Answering 999s is travel-restricted.

“A fine for illegal parking is £35 if paid early. This is not a deterrent. Parking attendants will tell you that when a driver is asked if he/she would like to move their vehicle or have a ticket they opt for the latter, a cheap price to pay. The tickets can be found all around the village, discarded and thrown to the ground. Then again, with thousands of cars how can parking enforcement keep on top of the vast problem.

“A local RDC councillor, Lizzie Hackett, organised a petition signed by many authorities seeking permission to set higher fines as London can. The Ministerial answer was ‘not at this time’. Residents feel that £200+ fines would really hit the pocket.

Anti-social behaviour

“Then we come to the disastrous issue of litter, not exclusive to Camber as we know. But the irresponsible anti-social behaviour of visitors is just astounding. Today the village, fields, verges, streets and beach are covered in discarded litter, thrown out of vehicles, left anywhere and everywhere, just dropped out of the car door before departure. The tonnage overwhelms the contractors Biffa who have restricted mobility for collection with road blockages and tides.”

If you want a summary of seaside hell, surely this is it. A very big thank you to John for writing so much for this article.

Image Credits: Shirley Bannister , John Bradford , John Bradford .

13 COMMENTS

  1. Tony Edwards April 16, 2022 at 1:04 pm
    So you’ve had all winter to discuss this and now there’s a public meeting at the end of April, then the various councils and committees will have to meet, then the bean counters will be consulted by which time once again it will be too late.
    Won’t that be a surprise?

    I posted this in April and low and behold it’s happened.
    The author sounds surprised which is surprising in itself as this is an age old problem that goes back way before social media was even invented.
    So what’s the solution? There are far more intelligent people than me that don’t know the answer but even I knew that painting yellow lines wasn’t going to be the solution, fining someone £35 is a real deterrent, it probably costs more than that to park in some places.
    From the councils point of view this is a seasonal problem and once we get to September it’ll solve itself and can be slid onto the back burner until the following spring when it will rear its head again.

  2. As I can’t ‘like’ this article which isn’t working (for me), I will simply say how saddened I am to see what happens at our beaches as soon as the sun comes out. Same thing at Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach. It is understandable that town & city dwellers seek to escape to cool off. And no doubt about it, flying to foreign parts is no fun these days, either! Do they actually enjoy it when they arrive here en masse and can’t find a parking or a loo, venting their frustration on the locals? These places are not equipped to handle the shear numbers nor the chaos they create, let alone the amount of rubbish irresponsibly left behind. Even the cost of fuel is no deterrent. Alas, access to these resorts, like other areas of ‘entertainment’ may a need a pass for local residents, and a hefty ‘entry fee’ for visitors. Where are the Park & Ride facilities with sufficient car parking and buses to take people, not their cars, to these otherwise beautiful places?

  3. So what is the answer? I can only come up with one suggestion and that is to employ a private company to clamp offending motorists who would then have to phone and pay for a release. Would this work? I like so many others affected don’t know, double yellows didn’t, signage doesn’t, parking wardens not effective and probably a difficult job to do as well. The Lydd road was again gridlocked and this could affect someones life in the event of emergency vehicles getting through.
    The problem is that people start out to get some Sun and Sea understandably, by the time they get here it’s rammed and the driver exhausted, no way are they going to leave or turn around. Camber is accessible to thousands in the South East and our population is quite large.
    Unless the law can be used to limit people travelling to a certain destination it will continue, any people with a legal background out there?

  4. I remember an article by our MP Sally Ann Hart in her first year as an MP (2020) stating she was going to chair a meeting between councils, police etc. into the urgent issues at Camber. I tried to find out what had happened but got nowhere. Maybe she would like to give us a list of her actions? In my experience working with local authorities/NHS/Police if an MP requests something they do respond …

  5. As with all events they must be planned, and issues considered, Camber has suffered virtually every Year with traffic and fumes. Parish Councils being the first level of Government can only do so much.

    Rother DC, County, Highways England, police, fire, ambulance are ALL interested parties.

    Your elected members need to come together with those organisations and thrash out with ALL the issues, their impact, considering and bringing together emergency services.

    With social media/ local radio advising well in advance of the conditions surrounding Camber.

    This step should be set in stone, as conditions may change. To allow the existing annual situation to continue, is to do nothing!

  6. I worry that one day there will be a ‘major incident’ and the emergency services won’t be able to get through due to selfish and thoughtless parking. No, I don’t have an answer, wish I did. We are lucky, we moved out of Camber some 9 years ago to Rye but sympathise still with what the residents have to endure every year, although I think it has got worse. Sadly, without many more enforcement people to ensure yellow lines etc are obeyed or even, as the above contributor has suggested, clamping, this problem will keep raising its ugly head.

  7. This is so sad.
    Put simply, people want to enjoy the seaside when the weather is hot.
    How can we make this simple need work for them?

    This is not a new issue. It it will not go away. Quite the reverse.
    Once upon a time there was a train line along that coast line. Is there anyone with sufficient imagination and leadership who could make bold decisions and do something good and restore it?

    My daughter lives in Cambridge. She seldom sees the sea. We left Rye early and took the bus. We were 2 hours on that bus to Camber. Everyone had got off the bus. I had to help guide the bus past a car parked on double yellow lines and nose to tail traffic on other side road as he simply could not get his huge bus through.

    We hardly stayed an hour as it was so crowded and noisy with many loud ‘boom busters’ everywhere.

    Not a pleasant experience.

    Can we not do better than this?
    It really isn’t asking a lot that hard working people should spend a day by the sea. Surely?

  8. You can’t put people off. The only answer is more, reasonably priced parking, and there are plenty of places for this. The danger of numbers on the beach is, in my opinion, nonsense. Accommodate demand, then everyone will be happy. Except, of course, those who think they own the place.

  9. At what point do you think, that after sitting for hours in traffic, you ask your self. Should we go somewhere else?

  10. We locals have the beaches all to ourselves in the cool months, and the poor townies should be able
    to enjoy them in the sun.
    The answer must be more parking. Can the council not buy, beg, borrow or steal a large field down
    there from the local landowner, and allow for unlimited parking…..as at the races or similar.
    Then traffic would get off the roads and the poor local could get about. Of course the farmer could still graze his sheep on the field in the winter. So win win for him.
    And at the same time, widen the road possibly, so that the inside traffic is for the parking field, and
    the outside lane for moving along.
    A pipe dream?

  11. A pipe dream?
    One road in and one road out, so possible to have ANPR at both sides of Camber. That’s much easier than exists for central London. Than there could be a Camber Congestion Charge. Visitor access would be online linked to their prepaid car park booking. Obviously, residents could have free access. There would be free access to the beach for pedestrians, cyclists and those arriving by bus. Bus access would be quick and reliable along unobstructed roads. Vehicles entering the zone without booking would suffer a high fine; no argument (that’s how it worked in central Singapore).
    Residents could join the scheme offering extra parking spaces on drives.
    Does it sound possible?

  12. I don’t live in the area, but based on all that I have read I get the impression that parking is not the only problem. Surely access to Camber is the primary issue? If visitors can’t get to the beach because the roads are gridlocked, then what is the point of the visit? As wonderful as the Camber shore-line is, for many people it will be a day out in hell; a battle to get the the destination (the last few miles anyway) and then to have to face massive parking problems. Not all the visitors will be “don’t give a damn” types who have contempt for the environment. I’m sure many will bitterly regret their decision to come and then, stressed-out, will to have to face an interminable journey home.

    I can’t see a quick fix to the problem, other than by issuing number-limited permits during the summer months, such permits being issued on-line. “Park and Ride” facilities for the final section of the journey may also help, but I suspect there will be many barriers to such schemes.

    Many travel writers seem to lump Rye and Camber together as one, Camber being Rye’s sandy beaches. Nothing could be further from the truth, as many innocent visitors must discover when they reach the town.

    • Great idea to have a one way system in and out of Camber on those good weather days to allow traffic to move. It would also allow tow trucks to come in and clamp all the cars parked illegally where these could be released after a more realistic fee of £120 payable online rather than a paltry parking fine of £35.

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