Strategy? What strategy?

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The police are forced to seal off Camber in June

As the days get warmer, plans are being made for holidays by others at the famous Camber Sands. But for many in Camber and surrounding areas this means getting the shopping in early, blocking off private drives, and placing signs in windows asking visitors not to park on front lawns.

Every summer the en masse descent into Camber bring chaos – gridlocked roads, anti-social behaviour, and plagues of litter are all thrown into the melting pot when temperatures rise. Frustration boils over into swearing, abuse and anarchy. General lawlessness becomes ubiquitous as drivers park in the middle of roads and continue on foot to the beach, blocking village access for residents, emergency services and public transport. The situation has long been untenable.

Last year’s response

Last year local MP Sally-Ann Hart was quick to respond to such scenes by seeking police emergency measures to redirect traffic elsewhere. As a result visitors spilled over onto nearby beach spots where the bedlam was repeated. In a follow up statement she reflected that such scenes “cannot go on”, and recognised that a strategy across departments was the correct approach to ensure that the deluge doesn’t happen again.

“A meeting is being convened for tomorrow between the county council, police, Highways England, myself and others to work out a way in which we can reduce the numbers coming to Camber; keep our roads clear and ensure those visiting show respect and decency to local residents and businesses”

“Camber is wonderful place to visit and enjoy, but not at any cost, and local residents and businesses must come first”. Residents have noted that there has been little discussion on the issue since – and apparently no strategy exists.

In preparation for the upcoming season nearby Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) have proposed more provisions to deal with the crowds, including introducing larger and more numerous bins, more double yellow lines to curb bad parking, and more wardens to manage traffic. FHDC will also be closing car parks early and will have more litter pickers on the beat.

This year’s questions are passed on

Can residents expect similar measures at Camber? I approached Sally-Ann Hart for comment, though my questions were passed on to Rother District Council (RDC) as they would be “better placed” to answer. Deborah Kenneally, head of neighbourhood services at RDC responds:

Question: A big concern of local residents is the prevalence of anti social behaviour. Last year there were two police patrolling the beach and residents felt that this fell well short of the enforcement power necessary for such huge crowds. Will more police be on the beat on busy days?

Answer: “When beaches and towns become busy and services are put under pressure, it is perhaps inevitable that frustrations can lead to an increase in antisocial behaviour. This was most evident at Camber Sands and last year officers found it was beneficial to have the additional support of security guards at Camber Sands to help RDC officers with traffic management and safe car park and toilet cleansing management on the busiest days.

“This worked well last year and we will repeat this again this season. All WCs will be fully open this season with all facilities cleaned and operated according to Covid guidelines so this should reduce this aspect of anti-social behaviour.”

Q. What provisions are being rolled out to tackle littering?

A. “We are very aware that the volume of litter, which is often an issue during the summer season, will potentially increase this year as visitors flock to our towns and beaches. We are working on providing more litter bins in relevant locations, asking people to take their litter home with them, and our waste contractor will be working more flexibly in certain locations in order to clear litter and empty bins later in the evening when safe to do so.”

“In particular more litter bins have been provided on Camber Sands beach to meet early season demand, and by early July we anticipate there will be up to 42 large litter containers in place ready to receive a high volume of litter. We are also working closely with RDC communications officers and Camber parish volunteers to support a new local Camber Sands litter campaign which it is hoped will be extended district wide in due course.”

“Sadly, despite our best efforts, we do not expect to be able to fully resolve the litter problem, and we will continue to encourage everyone visiting the beach to take their litter home with them.”

Q. Last year the accessibility of pavements was blocked by parked cars – a worry particularly for the wheelchair users and the elderly. What powers will be given to who to ensure that drivers are deterred this year? If measures still prove to be insufficient, will there be resources available on standby? If so what will these be?

What longer term management options are being considered? For example, if a maximum capacity is reached, will the roads be shut to non-residents?

In response to all three questions:

A. “Rother District Council does not have responsibility for, or the power to deal with traffic management issues or close roads, but we work closely with Sussex Police and East Sussex County Council and are ready to assist where we are not able…

“We regularly issue communications to media outlets in a bid to encourage people to consider before travelling where they might park, how busy their destination might, the level of traffic congestion and social distancing implications so that they might consider alternative destinations. We also work with the police to ensure signage along the main routes into the area advising visitors when car parks are full.”

“This will be the first summer season since East Sussex County Council introduced civil parking enforcement whereby they assume responsibility for enforcing parking restrictions and parking charges on Rother’s roads, and we are working with the ESCC parking team to focus enforcement on areas of the district most likely to become congested due to inconsiderate parking of vehicles on peak visitor days. These areas will include Camber Sands and Herbrand Walk.”

More bins, more security guards, and improved signage for traffic management could be the long awaited solution to curtail the crowds, though the expected boom in the “staycation” this summer will certainly require no less of services. Residents will be keen to see these mitigations in practice to remedy an issue that many feel has been overlooked for too long.

Time will tell if these measures will be enough, and Rye News will be there with a pad and pen to find out.

[Editor’s note: But the question about longer term management options remains unanswered – and Rother is considering a planning proposal to cut available parking spaces in Camber.  So is there no strategy? No “park and ride” plan (as was once suggested) ? No limit on access to Camber? Yet other resorts have such policies in place – and have had them for years]  

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

7 COMMENTS

  1. The only positive thing that can be said is that local residents may be spared the worst this Bank Holiday weekend because the weather forecast is very mixed – with low temperatures (for this time of year) and the possibility of even some showers. However high tides in the afternoon might mean there is a lot of available beach.
    It should be an opportunity though for Rother and East Sussex councils and the police to rehearse how to work together – and discover minor details like how cars can get into Camber from Lydd – and not just from the Rye direction.
    And perhaps our MP can do a walkabout in Camber explaining what her long term strategy is to her constituents.

  2. So after all the words last year our MP passes the buck to Rother who as usual couldn’t care less. Not responsible for parking, will put more bins out and security guards at toilets. That’s really going to help gridlock

  3. Interesting to see Rye has come 7th in the best seaside towns in England,hardly seaside but will probably add to more gridlock,noise and pollution to us all in the immediate future, hopefully our council and absent police force will take note, of these impending issues,that await us after Lockdown.

  4. And to add to that Stagecoach are rerouting the 103 between Lydd & Rye via the A259 at weekends & on bank holidays so Camber residents have to travel to Rye first on the 102 to get to/from Lydd New Romney & beyond!

  5. It may be stating the obvious but Eastern Rother residents (including Camber, Rye Harbour and Winchelsea Beach) have the rare opportunity to vote in three elections this coming Thursday. That’s for the East Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and your representative(s) on East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council. These are the people who are elected to represent your interests. They should be fighting on your behalf.

    Perhaps the reason for their past inaction is because those elected have not seen any negative impact on their election results when they fail to act. Perhaps now would be the time to send them a message that they’re expected to work for the people who elected them? Or better still, elect someone new who cares about representing the views of local people?

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