Trade falls for businesses as tonnes of stinking seaweed continues to cover isle beaches

The usually busy beach area by the Sun Deck businesses is empty due to the rotting seaweed

The huge volume of seaweed being washed up on Thanet beaches this summer, and the stench as it dries, is driving trade away, says Margate Bus Cafe boss Jodie Ellena-Lindley.

Thanet council says its staff have collected 1,000 tonnes over 5 weeks from the beginning of July compared to usually collecting between 400 and 800 tonnes in a whole season. So far this summer, the council has spent £65,000 on removing seaweed from beaches.

But there are still thick carpets of seaweed covering beaches including Westgate, Minnis and Westbrook to mounds at the Nayland end of Margate sands and layers at Walpole Bay.

The Bus Cafe, which is based at Nayland’s Royal Crescent Promenade, is one of the businesses hit with falling trade.

The venture has been run by Simon Lindley, wife Jodie and couple Xander Muir and Lois Du Plessis for the last seven years but Jodie says this year is unusually quiet due to constant rain in July and the off-putting stench of seaweed.

She said: “On Thursday we were quieter than usual and the seaweed really smelt bad. The bar was quiet, and so were the other vendors, which for a fairly nice sunny day in half term is unusual.

“Usually the beach in front of us is packed full of people and they come to the Sun Deck for food and drink. This year no one can use that beach at all, so we’re losing a fair chunk of trade due to it being unusable.

“Where the seaweed has started to dry it really smells. We have seen more vermin around which we wouldn’t normally as it is usually a busy area.

“It is disgusting, really grim and just everywhere.”

Jodie says she called the council’s environmental department due to the strong stench coming from the seaweed mound.

She said: “He told me they clear the seaweed every day but they haven’t touched this side of the beach and there is a mountain of it there.

“A few weeks back there were loads of dead crabs, then it was dead starfish and now we have rotten contaminated seaweed to deal with.”

Seaweed at Westbrook Photo Annie Yorath

In Westgate businesses, hut owners and visitors are also struggling with the decomposing seaweed.

Residents Jules Dawkins described St Mildred’s Bay as having “dried seaweed a foot deep.”

In response one hut owner said the site was “unusable.”

Another resident said: “Empty, stinking, and (you) have to pass through 20 metres of black sludge until you reach cleaner water.”

Concerns were also raised over the impact on beach front businesses such as Millies, St Mildred’s Bay Bistro and others.

St Mildred’s Bay Photo Jules Dawkins

Seaweed is removed from Thanet beaches between June and September and taken to a local farm. This is done under licence from the Environment Agency.

The amount that can be stockpiled at the farm for spreading is limited to ensure the nitrate levels the seaweed releases into the soil remain at the correct level for growing food crops.

But deputy council leader Helen Whitehead says the council has now reached the limit of what it is allowed to collect for farms. Once fields are past a certain nitrate point, they can’t have further seaweed deposited.

Westgate Photo Jules Dawkins

Talking to concerned Westgate residents on social media Cllr Whitehead said Thanet council is now looking at how the seaweed could be removed for compost or other forms of disposal.

She added: “We have tried to extend our collection licence with the Environment Agency, but this isn’t possible in terms of the timeframe we have because of the length of time it will take for the soil sample analysis required.

“We are working on how to continue collecting, but exceeding over 1000 tonnes in collection at this point is highly unusual, and couldn’t have been predicted.”

Seaweed at Westbrook Photo Annie Yorath

To use the seaweed as a fertiliser farmers need to opt in and apply to the Environment Agency for a licence. In a usual year the existing licences would cover the seaweed disposal but the increase in volume this year has outstripped capacity.

Rough seas, higher tides and strong winds cause large amounts of marine material such as seaweed to get washed up on beaches regularly around the UK. Warmer seas can also be a contributory factor, the Marine Conservation Society says UK sea temperatures have risen 2°C in the past 40 years.

Non-native species – those that wouldn’t normally be found in the UK – have also found their way to our seas, mostly due to human activity. Further afield high Sargassum levels of recent years are  tied to nutrient-rich water running off land into rivers and out to the oceans, where it can fertilise the seaweed.

Seaweed at Westbrook Photo Annie Yorath

Sewage, bad eggs or rotten vegetable smells come from  accumulated seaweed on the beach above the tideline, which decomposes rapidly in warm weather. The same stench can occur if there is algae breakdown in the water which can have a brown discolouration with sand or silt trapped in the foam.

Seaweed wash up is a natural occurrence and a vital part of the eco-system. Rising levels may have causes including increasing nutrients, mainly nitrogen, in coastal waters from sources which include urban run-off, agricultural and sewage input.

Seaweed is not collected during the winter months (October to March inclusive). It is left to help provide the foraging ground for the internationally important winter visiting birds, such as the Turnstone. This is important so they have enough energy to migrate to the tundra to breed over the summer and is a legal requirement of the Special Protection Area (SPA) for these wintering birds.

Seaweed collection Photo TDC

The chalk reef where it grows is protected by law which means the council is not able to remove seaweed from locations such as Beresford Gap, Grenham Bay and Epple Bay.

The council says: “We are committed to keeping our beaches looking beautiful and have been actively managing seaweed from our main bathing bays.

“This season environmental conditions have provided ideal conditions for the seaweed growth and depositing on to our beaches.

“We are currently looking at what we can do during the heavy seaweed years, as they are likely to increase as the climate changes.”

In the 2023/24 council budget, set in February, extra resources were made for seaweed clearance with a £45,000 allocation.

Thanet council deals with ‘unusually’ high levels of seaweed covering isle beaches this year


  1. What could be feeding the seaweed.
    What do water companies push out into the sea besides rain and tap water.
    Do London boroughs still take their household rubbish out to sea in barges as they used to.
    Perhaps these will answer the questions.

  2. It is clear the seaweed problem this year is very bad. As raised in earlier articles this problem of excessive seaweed ending up on the beaches is an ever recurring problem., not once in a blue moon or every five years or so .
    It is now for labour to build in some serious contingency plans for future years .
    Like with the lack of public conveniences in the town TDC have been slow to act, no more excuses please !
    If Margate is to fulfil its ambition of being a premier seaside destination then councillors and officers had better work together to find some immediate short term and long term solutions otherwise tourists will go to better managed resorts.
    I think Helen Whitehead and her team could show some humility and apologise for a lack of forward planning, even though we all know previous administrations were no better in dealing with this problem .

  3. Cllr Helen Whitehead and Rob Yates are an absolute credit. If something can be done, they’ll get it done. Very refreshing to see Councillors so engaging with the public and quick to resolve issues.

  4. I would suggest the businesses badly affected by this contact the Valuation Office Agency and discuss an appeal against their Business Rates Rates Valuation.

    There are provisions in place to reduce rateable values if businesses are adversely affected by severe local temporary disruption like roadworks, floods etc and it is entirely probable that piles of stinking seaweed that the Council aren’t clearing up would come into this category as well.

  5. Stop looking for excuses, it’s not the seaweed, it is, decades of under investment, flogging dead horses, poor decisions made by MPs and Cllrs, and the fact that Thanet is sold by TDC as Margate first and foremost, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, as opposed to the isle of thanet with its 3 key seaside towns, and picturesque small bays to enjoy, however the fact that margate old town is photographed a lot then if people come down the majority do not return as you can only spend a couple of hours there and the other two resorts are not promoted yet remain the jewels of the isle, and when holiday makers go walking and see run down high street, old decrepit hotels, junkies on street corners, they do not return. Not good enough TDC, MPs, Cllrs, or KCC. Evacuated raw sewage from Cliftonville and seaweed contribute but are not the only cause. Go spend time in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and learn how it’s done the correct way.

  6. Amazes me all the DFL’s who have no concept of tide or the sea. It’s the sea, sometimes the bacteria given off by the seaweed stinks. There’s more live crabs around Margate than dead ones.

    • Actually, Londoners know about tides. The Thames is tidal as far inland as Teddington.
      An astonishing number of locals seem bewildered by the phenomenon, though.

    • Yes you are correct in your assumption but at the same time when thousands of Jelly fish wash out( 6 weeks ago) and thousands of crabs( 4 weeks ago) and then the seaweed now then it’s not about what it does on land but what causes it to die I such vast number out at sea. I’m 99.99% sure that the amounts of Southern Water spills is killing the sea around YOUR cost line.

  7. Trouble is every tide you might have 100s of tons of the stuff . You don’t know how much is out there. You could say it’s nature’s fly tipping clean it up and back it comes again .

  8. Margate has always stank, like its a new problem lol maybe it’s the people complaining first summer in the rotten area

  9. Margate as several people have said has always had a seaweed problem and its not going to go away. Why don’t the council let the general public come and collect it for their allotments and gardens if they so wish.I know that years ago there was the law about the monarchs right to everything above or below the tide line. I can’t remember which I’m sure King Charles would love some why doesn’t the council contact him?.
    Regarding the complaints about the smell. Yes it does but its part of the seaside like noisy seagulls are. A lot of the complaints are from newbies who move there. The same sort of people who by a house under a flight path and then moan about the planes. The people who move near a pub or move to the country and cows mustn’t moo cocks crow.etc.The list is endless.
    One last thought I’ve had if Charles doesn’t want the seaweed maybe the council could sell it to a fertiliser company. That would solve 2 problems get rid off the weed and bring in much needed revenue. I rest my case

    • If you read the piece, you’d have seen the lengths that the Council has gone to to dispose of seaweed as a fertilizer

  10. It’s not just seaweed. I saw rubbish everywhere in Margate harbour, and the sea looked very unsightly, with black spots on the horizon moving down the coast. There was also a strange rotting substance on the main sands itself between the water line and the sand (which didn’t really look like seaweed imo). Can’t help but think it was a sewage leak that they don’t want you to know about. The mess actually began a few weeks ago, and it’s taken this long for anyone to start talking about it (which in itself is suspicious). Funnily enough, it first began when the Govt approved the new oil and gas licences.

    • Why has @isleofthanetnews taken so long to publish an article about this story? I saw footballs and other rubbish in the harbour when it first began, so please do not just blame it on seaweed. It is obviously a sewage leak.

      • Adam – and you have positive proof? I doubt it very much it’s a sewage leak and certainly nothing to do with oil and gas licences. I’ve lived in Thanet 39 years and this is and always has been an annual event. Smell slightly worse in recent years due to higher temperatures.

  11. In Cliftonville/ Walpole Bay Area, the beach has been a no go zone for the last few summers due to the depth of dried, smelling seaweed. The council are only interested in cleaning Margate sands for the tourists. Locals who pay council tax don’t count.

  12. Just seen the local itv news. It stated that thanet beachs are badly affected by seaweed and of course just concentrated on margate beach.

    Beaches around ramsgate area seem free of seaweed so the article on the news was misleading. Its only beaches on the north sea have a problem with seaweed not all of thanet.

  13. always excuses like the so called global warming….to me the council does not seem to care and its year after year now the stinking seaweed is left to rot.

  14. Why don’t we have the lovely Southern Water show their worth and come and clean up the beaches as t
    I’m pretty sure that much of their releases are stuck in the seaweed. It would be a lovely gesture from them to put the town first instead of their investors

  15. Could be coming from the wind farms or where the Godwins have been disturbed,so why not put the seaweed in barges and dump it out to sea , preferably on the French side of the channel.

  16. As a good will gesture for taking our money but not pay back into the community unless fined, I suggest Southern Water be clearing the beaches to keep their customers happy(You know the ones Southern Water. The ones giving you your Multi Million pound Profits.)

  17. My husband walks our dog every day along the coast route from Minnis to Westgate. He says the seaweed is chock full of toilet paper.
    So it’s obviously NOT just seaweed. Seems to me more sewage than the “acceptable” level is being released….AGAIN!

Comments are closed.