Volunteer group and residents urging Southern Water to extend beach cleaner funding to cope with expected summer visitor influx

Pristine at Botany Bay with the help of the Southern Water funded cleaner

A volunteer group and residents are hoping Southern Water will extend its sponsorship for beach cleaning to run throughout the summer.

The water firm has funded a dedicated beach cleaner over the winter for the stretch of coast from Foreness Point to Kingsgate Bay.

The part-time beach cleaner role was agreed after talks between the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate and Southern Water following pumping station and combined sewer discharges that resulted in swimming bans at nearly all of the isle’s beaches and bays.

However, the funding finishes at the end of March and the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate members and residents say they fear this summer will mean a return of the high levels of littering seen in previous years as visitors flock to the isle’s beaches.

Last summer Thanet council worker cleared  1,800 tonnes of litter from isle beaches, 7,000 hours of litter picking was completed across eight of Thanet’s most popular beaches by council staff (not including the efforts from the local community and groups!) and large (1100 litre) litter bins were emptied approximately 20,000 times (19,840).

Despite this hundreds of hours of volunteer time was needed to clear up mountains of rubbish left by record numbers of visitors to Thanet.

Barry Manners, from the Friends group, said: “Thanks to Southern Water’s sponsorship the Friends of Botany Bay CIC has employed a beach cleaner since November. It’s meant for the first time in living memory there’s been a dedicated beach cleaner to look after the beaches and clifftops from Joss to Palm Bay outside the peak Summer months.

“It’s made a very noticeable difference. It’s also helped improve Southern Water’s standing in the local community after the devastation caused by recent sewage discharges and the historic cover ups, for which they received record fines. Yet none of the £90 million fines goes to the communities in question.

“Local residents are now fearful of the Summer influx of visitors. We know that Thanet council budgets are stretched. There’s a gap between what they can deliver and what needs to be done to protect our beaches and marine environment. And it’s too wide a gap to be covered by volunteers alone.

“It’s unthinkable that we might return to the disgusting levels of neglect that characterised many of our beaches until relatively recently. So, we are asking Southern Water to extend their support throughout the Summer. We need another £7000 to properly fund the necessary supplementary beach cleaning along our stretch of coast in 2022.

Dedicated beach cleaner at work

“We plan to raise £3000 with our St. George’s Day Dinner fundraiser – which is already sold out. The rest needs to come from donations – ideally corporate sponsorship.

“I’m not prepared to sit back and watch litter pile up along our coast. We have to deal with the reality of doing something about it ourselves. Yes, we need more enforcement to prevent littering, we need more hours from committed and motivated council employees, but in the meantime this is a problem that is of real concern to much of the local community.

“There’s a limit to what can be asked of volunteers to fill the shortfall in council provision for keeping our beaches clean in Summer. We’re asking Southern Water to step forward and prove its commitment to better beaches at Botany and along the Thanet coast.

“There are also other beaches around Thanet where the success of Southern Water’s sponsorship could be emulated to greatly benefit the marine environment. We’re happy to work with them to facilitate this, particularly at ecologically sensitive sites like Pegwell Bay.”

Barry says the hope is to raise £8000 to fund two cleaners sharing 35 hours per week to keep the stretch from Joss Bay to Walpole Bay clean, with the possibility of linking with volunteer groups who might want to put the same arrangements in place for other isle beaches.

District councillor for Cliftonville East, Charlie Leys, says he hopes Southern Water will agree to extra funding, adding: “It’s amazing to see our beaches looking cleaner than ever. Funding from Southern Water has meant that the work community groups like the Friends of Botany Bay have put in hasn’t gone to waste as they’ve been able to employ their own dedicated beach cleaner.

“The environment is on everyone’s minds, and I’m concerned that Southern Water hasn’t re-committed to provide any funding going forward. I believe they have a duty of doing so due to their historic failings of pumping sewage into the sea off Foreness Point.

“We can expect huge number of visitors to Botany Bay this year, which unfortunately means more litter. Without funding we’re seriously undermining efforts from the community and endangering our commitments to local ecology and the marine environment.”

Talks are expected to take place this week with Southern Water where the request for extended funding will be made.

Noticing the difference

Andy Russell, a Clarence Avenue resident, said: “Taking my daily stroll along Botany Bay beach and noticing how clean and tidy the area has been looking over recent months, I dread going back to previous years of litter and nappies on the beach. It would be a real shame to go back to those days after all the hard work that’s taken place to keep the beaches clean and tidy for people to use all year round.”

Elaine Thornley, a long term Botany Bay resident, said: “I’ve lived many years now in Botany Bay and walk with my dog Stan every day. The area is looking cleaner than I can ever remember seeing it. I’m dreading the Summer and hope the extra beach cleaning we’ve had recently will continue.”

Peter Blem, from the Thanet Biodiversity group, said: “The reduction of litter on the Palm Bay to the Foreness section of the beach, that I walk most days, has been really noticeable. “Knowing that the funding for the daily litter pickup ends in a couple of months, is very concerning. I run the group Thanet Biodiversity, so I am particularly aware of the harm that litter on our beaches and coastal waters does to all forms of wildlife, from the tiniest micro-organisms through to the larger birds and mammals that visit our shores. I do hope further funding will be found to protect our precious coast and the creatures it provides for.”

Scott’s litter-picking daughters Sophia and Holly

Scott Manclark, Palm Bay resident and founder of Northdown Park and Palm Bay Community Group, said: “Botany Bay and the surrounding bays have in past years suffered with an immense amount of litter, of which a lot was embedded within the sand. Nowadays thanks to volunteers and a dedicated cleaner you have to really look for litter.

“The bay is pristine and how it should be. It’s a safer place to visit for all including my girls, who regularly litter pick in the area. I hope we can keep maintain this going forward. It can only be good news for whoever uses the beach.”

Jaz and Marley

Claire O’Shea, Palm Bay resident and mum of young volunteers Jaz and Marley, said: “As a local family we are at the beach most days, it’s our time together that we look forward to, so it has been brilliant to see the beach so looked after this winter. We just hope this will be continue to be the case next year.”


  1. And whilst all this is going on it is reported today the SW have again dumped large amounts of sewage into the sea just up the coast at Herne Bay and Whitstable, then around the coast at Folkestone over the weekend. It is never going to stop, there wasn’t even a storm for an excuse!

  2. That’s the trouble with southern water owned by s french company punishing us Shurely the managers know what’s going on it seems asking volunteers to do the work that TDC should be doing litter picking on the beaches is unnessery as what’s there comes from shipping and wind blower litter on to the beaches when the only people there are dog walkers. This is a seaside island with all our wonderful beaches we expect visitors to come here they help the islands economy and gives jobs during the seaside it sounds like they don’t want visitors here probably prefer dole on sea them ludicrous displays on Margate station will put put visitors of coming here people can use there common sense we never had the problem of litter until TDC took the litter bins of the beaches that people used and got rid of seasonal beach cleaners to empty the bags in them it worked for years why doesn’t it work now cost cutting if visitors are helping the local economy money should be there to do this work and give jobs to local people.

  3. Owned by a french company thanks to Thatcher. Now this tory government let’s SW water get away with it.

    I really dont understand thanets problem with SW you lot keep voting in Tory MP’s election after election. You got what the people of thanet want !

    The dirty water can go with the dirty air once there per airport opens.

  4. Fair play and respect to the volunteers but it certainly takes the proverbial when TDC are just about to hike Council Tax to the maximum allowed by law yet again and these are services they should be providing as part of it. I did notice the budget includes just short of £700k for staff pay rises. Don’t even get me started on the £1m “Management team backstabbing fund”

    TDC – “Pay more, get less”

  5. I think that those who benefit from a manicured beach should pay for it, i do and i dont mind paying.
    Hopefully sw has taken note and will not spew sewage out any more but there is always butt’s.
    Many summer beach visitors leave a lot of trash on the beaches and surrounding areas, its happens all around the country. Tdc do clean it up but not before it makes social media news but its not actually news.
    Those social media contributors fuelling anti Tdc beach clean up op’s, should consider when safe! to actually pick up the trash themselves and deposit in a bin. Not every bin will be full us locals know that.
    Others will disagree~

    • I have got this far James, and no one has mentioned why Visitors(sic) don’t take their rubbish back home with them! Perhaps Litter Wardens could be taken on by TDC, to dish out on the spot fines for litter droppers etc, as some council do nationally? They share the fines 50% 50% with the councils and the Litter Wardens!

  6. James

    I actually feel so for the front line TDC works. Their senior management has spent millions on fighting bullying. The front line staff properly get abuse from the public, who always want more for their money.
    It isnt their fault they are understaffed, have poor machines etc etc.

    At the end of the day it’s the public that bring food, drink etc to the beach. It’s the public who decide to leave the waste and empties on the beach. Its nothing to do with TDC, it’s the way this country is going. Its simple what your bring with you to the beach you take home with you.

  7. Conservative policy ,for many years, has been to reduce the amount of central cash going out to help fund local services. It’s not a secret. They are quite open about it. They refer to “increased efficiencies” and “value for money” and have kept reducing the amount coming to Thanet and lots of other places.
    So we end up having to beg private companies to help us out, or appeal for donations, or rely on volunteers and other superb people to do the cleaning-up work that should be done by local councils.
    What a way to run a country!
    As there is no end in sight, we will have to sit back with a nice cup of true British, patriotic tea, and blame the French for “punishing us”!
    Why punish us? We are willingly harming ourselves, without any help needed!

  8. I’m not sure SW can be blamed for ALL the litter on beaches but it must take a share – and in it’s usual way it does…..by part funding one beach cleaner rather than by cleaning up its act.
    Until it is cheaper for SW to mend its ways it will always choose pollution and waste into the seas.

  9. Great that detritus will continue to be cleared from the beach, wherever it comes from. All credit to the volunteers, but the company really should be taking responsibility for that which comes from sewage outlets.

    Seems to me that as sea water pollution cannot be reversed by litter picking SW are happy to focus on the admirable efforts of volunteers who are removing the visible reminders of it.

  10. Amazing Thanet has so many volunteers.Well done.What would help if TDC got its act together.
    Get ceative and stop shops issuing sachets for salt sugar pepper etc,a napkin with every piece of food, make shops responsible for the rubbish outside,pubs for cigarette butts, returnable deposits on glass bottles rather than beer and pop cans thrown everywhere,ban plastic and wooden ccutlery…all things I constantly pick up in my road.
    Make companies like Costa,McDonalds Morellis to be reponsible for the litter thrown by their customers.
    Provide more bins and empty on a regular basis.
    In France they have people on the beach all day asking people to drop in their rubbish.
    Its easy really.BUT is Tourism worth it.

  11. I have got this far James, and no one has mentioned why Visitors(sic) don’t take their rubbish back home with them! Perhaps Litter Wardens could be taken on by TDC, to dish out on the spot fines for litter droppers etc, as some council do nationally? They share the fines 50% 50% with the councils and the Litter Wardens! This has NOT been mentioned before, and certainly not by me!

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