15 June 2014
Local people and visitors to Weymouth have been enjoying Castle Cove beach for decades. But following a landslip and the removal of the steps in February 2013 for safety reasons there has been no access to the beach.
Green Party member Clare Sutton launched a petition on 22nd March to urge Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to work closely with Dorset County Council, local landowners and businesses and the local community to find a solution. The petition has attracted well over 1800 signatures, including over 900 online.
You can still sign the petition here
Ms Sutton, who handed the petition to the Borough Council on April 7th, said:
“Having spent many afternoons on the beach as a child, teenager, and more recently as a mum, I knew lots of local residents loved this beach but I didn’t realise just how important it was to so many people. Literally hundreds of people have talked about using it as a child and how much they miss it and want their children and grandchildren to be able to use it. I’ve also been really touched by just how many people said that they had scattered a loved-one’s ashes there.”
Throughout March and April Ms Sutton and local Green Party members knocked on nearly 1300 doors in the local area. Ms Sutton added:
“The level of support has been extraordinary. Almost every single person we spoke to wanted to sign the petition and some even took a copy away to get even more signatures. A big thank you also to the Buxton Road Fish and Chip Shop and The Old Castle Pub who collected signatures, and I’d like to say a really big thank you to everyone who has supported this petition.”
“Local Councillors can now be in no doubt how strongly local people feel about this issue, so we are all calling on them to work really hard to try and find a solution. We have asked for a meeting so we can discuss with them the issues and ideas raised by local people and we hope they will get back to us soon."
On the 5th June at a Full Council meeting councillors discussed my petition asking that the Borough Council ‘works with Dorset County Council, local businesses, local landowners and the local community to re-establish public access to Castle Cove Beach’.
In my view, councillors’ response was shameful. Councillor Birtwistle proposed the ‘Take no further action’ option – i.e., just give up on our beach – and about ½ the councillors present voted for this. All the others, including all the Labour Councillors, abstained, with one honourable exception. Not a single one of our local councillors in Weymouth East or Weymouth West was even willing to say, let’s do some work on this. They did not respond directly to any of the points I made, but it would cost them virtually nothing to look again at the stability issue, the plan earlier put to the Council for a much cheaper new bridge, and possible use of the existing slipway.
The main virtually cost-free points I recommended at the meeting were:
·Look again at the stability of the top half of the path, which the County Council’s Senior Ranger says is stable
·Assess a plan for new steps costed at just £7,000-£8000 and
·Talk again to the owners of the private slipway in light of the clear strength of public feeling, and look into their covenants to see if there is anything which suggests a right of public access
More than anything, I completely fail to understand how they could show such disdain for the 1800 people who signed the petition. With just one exception, they all put party politics above the public interest.
I am incredibly disappointed, as I honestly thought they would get all the interested parties together to see if we can, together, find a cost-effective solution.
In order to take this vital issue forward I will be chairing a public meetingat St. Nicholas Church Hall, Buxton Road, Monday 14th July at 7PM - All Welcome.
Please come along if you might be interested in helping take the issue forward and discussing options about how we can continue the campaign to reopen access to Castle Cove.
You can still sign the petition here
If you would still like to comment on this issue or add your support to the campaign, contact Ms Sutton on 01305 771180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Castle Cove Beach: a great place for locals in the past, and hopefully for generations to come.