A metal detecting enthusiast says he believes detectorists are ‘being coerced’ by Thanet council into applying to a notification scheme for activity on isle beaches.
Tony Ovenden, who is himself a Thanet district councillor, says he was surprised to discover that notification now has to be made through the council website to use a metal detector on Thanet beaches.
Detectorists are being asked to complete a notification form, which lasts for two years, and covers the Thanet foreshore. The notification is due to local bylaws and some areas coming under the Thanet Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which is managed to keep favourable conditions for coastal habitats and wildlife.
The Ramsgate councillor said: “This has not been communicated to metal detector users very well as I only found myself out by chance. I cannot even say if it is an officer or a member decision.
“I understand the need for a code of conduct for metal detecting in some of the environmentally sensitive areas, more so to respect the sites of specific scientific interest . But metal detecting takes place mostly in the wet and soft sandy areas of the populated bays and beaches well away from any SSSI . Overall there is nothing to find in the areas of SSSI anyway.
“Perhaps there may be a need for a bit of discipline metal detecting on the soft sand, especially when people are still relaxing on the beach at 5pm with someone deciding to metal detect close up to their feet .
“TDC cite the digging of holes on the beach by metal detector users as an issue. Yet the same beaches are where children dig sandcastles and mechanical diggers operate at times. Surely this decision should have gone out to consultation, involving metal detector users to draft up a code of conduct? If it had, then why was the wider metal detector community not informed?
“Under the system of governance at TDC we will have to live with the decision. Getting permission to metal detect from TDC is not the end of the world. I am not sure even if they can enforce it 16 hours a day seven days a week..
“I see it as a form of control on metal detecting on the beaches where metal detecting has been a pastime close to 50 years unmolested.
“The permission lasts for two years and I expect following my group postings TDC will receive a deluge of applications. It is possible that TDC could end up with 250 metal detector users on its books or even more. To process this will mean officer time and considering that nothing in this world is done for free there will be a cost associated to this.
“Personally I think that given that there is a two year time frame on this, there could be a review after two years . I think rather cynically, and you have to remember I am a TDC member, that given the numbers of metal detector users on TDC’s books there could be a review sometime in the future where we could face a fee to metal detect from a cash strapped council. Time will tell.”
The code requires metal detector users to follow the ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Code of Practice for Metal Detecting’* – including the reporting of any finds, as endorsed by Kent County Council’s Heritage Section.
Some foreshore areas are owned privately, notably the beaches along the Northern Sea Wall, within the Minnis Bay up to West Bay area; and within Kingsgate Bay which is leased land owned by Church Commissioners. No metal detecting is allowed within Pegwell Bay/Sandwich Bay National Nature Reserve, without specific Kent Wildlife Trust written permission first.
A Thanet council spokesperson said the notification process is to help manage Thanet’s foreshore, adding: “The Thanet Coast Project introduced this at the end of 2019 to encourage responsible use of the coast and as a result of a growing number of enquiries about metal detecting.
“Previously, this activity was not covered within the Thanet Coastal Codes for the Thanet Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest, owned and managed by Thanet District Council.
“A notification link was added to the front page of the Thanet Coast website (www.thanetcoast.org.uk) and it was also embedded within these voluntary Thanet Coastal Codes.
“To clarify, people do not ask for permission but they notify the landowner (TDC) and agree to follow the Portable Antiquities Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales so that any ‘finds’ get reported to the relevant authorities, and they abide by the local Coastal Codes.”