Concerns raised over Thanet metal detecting ‘notification’ scheme

Concerns raised over the metal detecting notification scheme Photo Carl Hudson

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?

Photo Carl Hudson

“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.

Photo Carl Hudson

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 ( 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.”


  1. Protecting the coastline TDC say. So what are they doing about the commercial harvesting of shellfish along our coast where descriptions, locations and times of the culprits have been sent to them for action? What is being done about the mass of toilet tissue and wet wipes covered in poop left by the sea where the travellers are currently camped out in Ramsgate. The smell of human excrement there is vile. What is being done about the bins never being emptied between Broadstairs and Ramsgate. All overflowing all weekend, dog poo and litter everywhere.

    Let’s file all that in the “too difficult drawer” and go after the metal detectors instead. Pathetic.

  2. Clearly a set of double standards being operated by TDC here.

    There is no control whatsoever on beaches where visitors are digging holes to a depth of five feet or more, lighting barbecues, running petrol generators and coach parties leaving all their rubbish behind – and yet a detectorist digging a six inch hole is considered a problem !

    Somebody at TDC has buried their head in the wrong patch of sand . . .

    • There are regulations pertaining to beach activities covering barbecues, litter and so on. There are regulations pertaining to metal detecting.
      Your point being what?

      • Phyllis – sorry I did not make my point clearly enough.

        The digging of deep holes on the beach is dangerous and every year leads to children becoming trapped when the sand caves in and somewhere in the country at least one child will suffocate and die.

        Barbecues on the beach are also dangerous because the charcoal is very hot and can cause injury to children who are running about and playing – which is what beaches are for. Furthermore the hot charcoal is often abandoned on the beach and can cause burns to the unwary for many hours after use.

        Petrol generators on the beach are running at high temperatures, producing electricity and carbon fumes as well as petrol contamination to the sand. Again this is a danger to children who are playing on the beach – danger of burns and danger of electrocution in addition to the general environmental impact.

        The coach parties that visit our beaches are renowned for bringing all their own food and drink and then leaving our beaches under a layer of discarded bottles, cans, plates, bags, boxes, etc., etc., and impacting on the environment and the aesthetics for the rest of us.

        There are indeed rules and regulations pertaining to the prevention of these dangerous, antisocial and polluting activities on our beaches but TDC does nothing to prevent them happening or to enforce the existing rules. It therefore seems a total nonsense for TDC to introduce new rules for the governance of the innocuous activity of metal detection.

        That is the point I was trying to make and I can only apologise once again that I did not explain myself with sufficient clarity in the first instance.

        • You speak a lot of crap,,,big holes , rubbish talk,,,,dont need any more crap from people or council,,,like you,,,find something else to complain about,,,

      • The beaches are covered in litter under the sand and dog poo. The holiday makers walk off after burying their BBQ and litter or just leaving it. The dogs are pooing in the sand and it remains there for a year or more. Metal detectorists see all of this and the fact that the councils are not punishing any offenders. But somehow metal detectorists exercising and cleaning up metal litter mostly are a problem. ??? I have not seen a single hole ledt by a metal detectorist either they are all from dogs and holiday makers. You are letting the beaches become filthy. Address those issues and not the imaginary detectorist problem.

    • Alan – so who is responsible for making and enforcing the rules and regulations governing the use and activity on the beaches – The Queen or TDC ? ? ?

  3. Just another way to extort/collect revenues from law abiding citizens a group of people that contribute to cleaning the beaches of rubbish and dangerous objects ie glass metals and plastics that we pick up while pursuing our hobby.

  4. The only real reason they have brought it in is so if anyone finds anything of value tdc can make claim/part claim to it! Sod all to do with holes etc thats just an excuse!

  5. I recall seeing a metal detectorist ‘at work’ on Joss Bay. He dug lots of holes under the cliffs and was too lazy/stupid/indifferent to fill them in when they were clearly a hazard to children and animals.

    • That guy was just someone who had just bought a detector. Not a Detectorist. He probably dug other holes in the sand too. He would not have read anything about detectorists and metal detecting and certainly would know nothing about any rules in place. All the other hundreds of holes are made by dogs and children and day-trippers etc. Detectorists even fill in dangerous holes, dogs and people leave behind. There are too many regulation geeks making up stories and putting 2 and 2 together to make 6. All the true detectorists are the most law abiding people and even councillors and magistrates do it. We keep the beaches free of sharp metal and junk. If we stopped there would be a huge mess after a year or so.

  6. The beaches belong to the crown estates and permission is not needed. For the council to say metal detecting enthusiasts dig holes. It’s basic manners we replace any sand and also children dig holes. Dogs dig holes as well while running on beach. Are they going to need permission as it’s a SSI really Thanet council grow up and stop being so annal about it. The tide comes in twice a day and probably does more damage during a storm then a metal detector digging a hole 6” deep hole. Please be realistic my grandad fought in the war to stop bureaucrats being like this and our freedom to roam.

  7. I got my permission last year from TDC to detect on the beachs I’ve only been challenged once to find out if I had permission…

  8. Metal Detectorists mainly use beaches for exercise and clean the beaches of lead and metal litter like sharp parts of cans, pull rings and thousands of crown bottle caps. Lead is found in great quantities from fishing sinkers to millions of scrap pieces of lead dropped over the centuries. Lead is highly toxic to fish and particularly sea horses. Thanet Council are barking up the wrong tree. And SSSI sites should welcome the clean up of lead and rubbish from the beaches. Metal detectorists fill in the holes they dig. Dogs, and Holiday makers leave the holes behind and dogs leave more than holes. The dog mess remains in the sand to be dug up by children next year. The beaches of Thanet are much cleaner because of metal detectorists. There is very little to be found on the beaches but most detectorists are retired and just do it to make exercise more interesting. People look at all the detectorists and think there must be something there but there isn’t its just exercise. And metal detecting is surprisingly strenuous. Try digging 100 holes and filling them in while swinging a heavy weight for 6 hours and walking 4 miles on soft sand.!!!!

  9. The council not long ago said it had no authority to keep coach parties that leave their mess behind off of our beaches, which is evident year after year, so how does it now have authority to make people notify them that they will be metal detecting? There are double standards in play here. Who was the fool to come up with this silly idea?

    My thoughts would be to ignore such pathetic notifications as they have a reputation of not enforcing any of the rules and regulations on our coastline as it is.

  10. I am as many of would be totally dismayed that this has become such an issue, as a keen beach detectorist I am constantly removing sharp and hazardous materials such as nails, screws, bottle tops and ring pulls from beaches, maybe that should have been considered before making it harder on the people who really clean up the beaches.

  11. Bylaws are not on the statute books , so not legally enforceable. . And since foreshore between high and low water mark is crown estate , local council has no jurisdiction. A code of conduct for metal detecting is available when a member of NCMD or FID. .And SSIs are useless for detecting anyway since the habitual for birds tends to be wild unkempt mash or grassland and totally useless for detecting on

  12. ridiculous action as detectorists actually doing some good towards keeping beaches clean by removing buried cans,can pulls, bottle tops and other rubbish as they go along but as they move along slowly carrying equipment then are an easy target for some jobsworth that somehow got into position of authority and wants to control people, the rubbish leavers, bbq leavers, dog shitters etc all moving a bit too quick for them or have the excuse “can you prove that with video evidence” or not mine mate never seen it before, so it comes to target the detectorist no matter that he helping keep beach clean he is going around digging holes for “personal gain” hence can be targeted as cannot run away too quick carrying detector kit, said jobsworth can than claim a medal or something for taking action against the “criminal elements” on the beaches

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