Council sets out future plans at Long Rock

A public meeting to discuss the results of the recent public consultation on proposed works to reduce disturbance to wildlife at the Long Rock Site of Special Scientific Interest, and set out plans for the future, will take place on Wednesday 14 September.

The consultation included a survey, public meeting and face to face meetings on site, and the results from 658 responses clearly show the public felt that neither Bird Wise East Kent, which had put the proposals forward, nor the city council as landowner, had fully exploited non-physical measures, such as signs, enforcement and wardening, as ways to try and resolve the problem.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents objected to rerouting the path, 68 per cent objected to fencing off the rerouted path, and 59 per cent objected to resurfacing and fencing the central path. There was, however, support for creating a wet barrier in the form of a ditch, with 65 per cent in favour.

There was also support for improving signs and maps, enforcing the existing Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) on dog controls, and enforcing no cycling restrictions.

As such, the council has decided these measures around education and enforcement should be fully implemented and tested before moving forward with any physical steps to restrict access.

For the next two winters, 2022/23 and 2023/24, the focus will be on improved signs asking people to keep off the shingle beach at high tide, to keep dogs on leads or under control, as per the PSPO, and not to cycle on the central path.

Work will also take place to monitor the number of people using the area and incidents of vandalism to signs and the wider site. And there will be an offer to establish a Friends group to tap into the community interest in Long Rock.

The effectiveness of these measures will be monitored throughout and in due course, the council will make recommendations to either maintain the status quo or pursue physical interventions such as fencing or new or closed paths if considered necessary.

The council remains conscious of its responsibility to look after the SSSI and the importance of the site to wintering birds, and is seeking to get the right balance so that everyone can continue to enjoy it.

Cabinet member for open spaces and enforcement, Cllr Ashley Clark, said: “To do nothing is not an option. This is a wildlife site of international significance but represents a tiny fraction of our 17 miles of coastline which is dog friendly for over 95 per cent of its length.

“We have an interim measure in the form of a Dogs on Leads order, which is not a total ban, but we are seeking the optimum solution for the long term and that is what this is all about.

“Claimed rights to do as one pleases regardless have to be balanced against responsibility to the planet as a whole.”

The public meeting takes place at Swalecliffe and Chestfield Community Centre at 5.30pm. Officers from the council and Bird Wise East Kent will be there to explain the results of the consultation in more detail, talk about the plans for the next two winters and answer any questions.

Published: 18 August 2022

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