Protest as planning inspector visits Whitstable’s oyster farm

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw

Local residents have held a protest in Whitstable, as the planning inspector carried out a visit to the beach’s controversial oyster farm

The tour of the rows of trestles is part of a public inquiry, considering the future of the metal structures which sit above the average low water mark.

Canterbury City Council had issued an enforcement notice, calling for them to be removed. 

But the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, which owns the beach and built the trestles, wants them to stay. 

The protest was planned to coincide with a visit by planning inspector Katie Peerless (right). Credit: ITV News Meridian

The number of trestles along the shore has increased over the past decade. They’re used to grow oysters in bags

Julie Wassmer, a local resident who was at today’s protest, describes them as a “blot on the seascape”. 

The company which built them says the trestles are “crucial” to the continued “farming of market sized Whitstable oysters”.

Sea swimmers were among those at the demonstration. They’re concerned about the presence of upturned metal hooks, which they say are a hazard when submerged. 

Local resident Liz Foreman says: “They look dangerously sharp and you can’t see them when the tide is covering them and the waves, you can’t tell they’re there.”

“Even though there are buoys around, there are lots of buoys in this water, and if you were someone coming down to Whitstable, you definitely wouldn’t know what they meant.”

Those campaigning against the oyster farm structures believe they pose a risk.

Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company declined our request for an interview. 

In a statement, James Green from the firm, said: “[The trestles are] crucial for us to keep so that we can continue farming market sized Whitstable oysters. Without it we would be consigned to growing half grown oysters for other oyster farms on the continent.

“It could never possibly be in the interest of the Public to serve an enforcement notice to remove oyster production from Whitstable, a town synonymous with oysters  and whose economy is based on tourism that is largely reliant on the oyster industry being present in the town.”

The public hearings of the planning inquiry have now concluded with a final outcome expected to take several weeks.