Southern Water confirms continued funding for beach cleaning at Botany Bay and towards fruit garden in Northdown Park

Beach clean volunteer

Southern Water has confirmed it will continue to give financial support to Friends of Botany Bay CIC with its beach cleaning activities through to March 2025.

Some £5,000 has been earmarked by the water firm for the beach clean operation and to help with other projects, including a community fruit garden in Northdown Park to promote biodiversity.

The Southern Water funding first started in 2021 and paid for a dedicated cleaner 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 the water company. It followed pumping station and combined sewer discharges that resulted in swimming bans at nearly all of the isle’s beaches and bays.

This year The Friends of Botany wrote to Southern Water to request the company continues to support beach cleaning this year – although at a reduced level from 2023.

Councillor Barry Manners is a director of the community interest company, raising money to employ a small, dedicated team of part time cleaners for beaches from Joss Bay to Palm Bay.

He said the group submitted a plan for 386 hours of paid beach cleaning to be supported financially by Southern Water in 2024/25, reduced from 700 hours in 2023/4.

Following confirmation of the latest funds Cllr Manners said “The funding will support paid and volunteer beach and clifftop cleaning as well as efforts to improve biodiversity in Botany Bay and Cliftonville.

“Of course I share concerns to see sustained improvement and infrastructure upgrades with all UK water companies – but this should not conflict with pragmatic constructive engagement to assist groups working to improve the local natural environment. Especially as there’s demonstrably so much that can be achieved in doing so.

“I’m really pleased that Southern Water will continue their support for 2024/5.

“None of this means we will excuse avoidable sewage discharges or unnecessary delay in the delivery of infrastructure upgrades.

“With the exception of our small paid beach clean team we’re all volunteers. Our role is limited and is focused solely to help ensure cleaner beaches, less plastic in the sea and more planting for biodiversity on the land.

“There are plenty of very highly paid people at the Environment Agency, OFWAT and central government to obsess about the rest.”

He also welcomed the additional support for plans to create a community fruit garden at Northdown Park.

Councillors Barry Manners, Kevin Pressland and Cedric Towning, along with Youngs’ nursery owner Jackie, are working together on the community initiative.

They are inviting residents to sponsor their own fruit tree or fruit bush for the community fruit garden to commemorate a loved one or special event – or simply help out with a donation to make the space come to life as a community foraging garden.

Youngs Nurseries has a choice of pre-selected trees and bushes from which to choose. Trees are priced at £60 and fruit bushes £20 (additional bushes at £10 each). The price paid is fully inclusive and covers all planting.

People can tie a ribbon with their own message or name, on the chosen tree or bush when they buy.

The group hope to start planting from May 3.

Cllr Pressland said: “This semi woodland forage garden will enable the public to forage on fruit once the fruit trees and soft fruit bushes become established.

“This initiative is supportive of the National Food Strategy as outlined by Henry Dimbleby who advised government to implement it.”

Cllr Manners added: “Residents regularly contact their local councillors to enquire about planting commemorative trees, and I think there’s scope for TDC to better facilitate this as part of its environmental strategy.

“So this initiative, in cooperation with Youngs and fellow councillors, will give residents the opportunity to directly support plant and tree planting at an affordable ‘at cost’ price – creating an engaging community space in the process.”

A fundraiser for the foraging garden can be found by clicking here

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, added: “It’s fantastic news that the Friends of Botany Bay community group and our wonderful beach cleaning volunteers now have the funding necessary to continue to keep Botany Bay clean for the next 12 months.

“This announcement shows what can be achieved when local people, politicians and a private utility company work constructively together.

“My thanks to the indefatigable Cllr Barry Manners and Cllr Cedric Towning who have led conversations on this and to Southern Water for working with us to keep this beautiful Blue Flag beach clean for both local residents and visitors alike.”

However, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate Polly Billington compared the funding to “trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.”

She added: “ Southern Water is having a laugh if they think Thanet residents will be bought off with funding to help volunteers clean the beach for nothing.

“Volunteers are great and what they do is really valued, but it’s Southern Water who should clean the water, stop dumping sewage and invest in the infrastructure we desperately need.

“Labour will hold these water companies to account, including ensuring they face criminal charges if they fail in their duties.”

Steve Roberts, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for East Thanet, says he is not impressed with the Southern Water donation.

He said: ‘We have lost count of how many times Southern Water dumped raw sewage into the sea around our beaches. Saying sorry through gestures like this is simply not enough after £57bn has been paid out in payouts to shareholders over the last 30 years. It just adds insult to injury.

“The Green Party will bring water companies back into public ownership.

“I would also ask people to come along to the Viking Bay sail out protest being organised by Thanet Friends of the Earth and Surfers Again Sewage on May 18th, more details to come soon.”

7 Comments

  1. What a load of nonsense. Much more important is stopping the millions of gallons of sewage into the sea. As for pictures of Craig smug face – please stop it

    • Agreed – Big smiley faced ‘vote for me’ Craig and Polly with Baz looking happy in his first pic, all the rest looking like the world is going to end anytime soon.
      Its what Sothern Water try and do best, manipulation, excuses for their incompetence and big bonuses for top dogs and shareholders.

    • It was his government that privatized water in 1989. Since then, untold billions of £ of our money has gone to line the pockets of investors and shareholders, instead of paying for the upkeep of the system. And now, when it’s evident that the system is falling apart, the water companies have the gaul to increase the charges.
      But that’s the Tory way. Move public money into private bank accounts as efficiently as possible.

  2. As long as Southern Water has a monopoly, we should support and encourage their efforts to keep beaches clean and work towards a solution to ending dumping of raw sewage into the ocean.
    I appreciate being able to comment on this as turning off comments does not go along with Free Speech.

  3. This is a good article, so thanks to IoTN. It highlights the difference between local and central government, Cllr’s and MP’s.
    Craig thanks two of three Cllr’s for their efforts (cynical that he doesn’t thank Kevin, the non-tory). But, Craig doesn’t mention what PollyB and SteveR say, that SW have been criminally negligent in causing the problems in the first place.
    A few years back I recall Craig at a protest demonstration in Ramsgate where he gave firm commitments to hold SW to account, of course this was all bluff and bluster with no follow through.
    Cllr’s should be trying to improve lives within their areas of control, as with this beach clearing. MP’s should be acting to regulate and enforce against corporate greed and criminality. Craig has failed miserably here, PollyB is limiting herself to Labour’s “hold SW to account” while Steve is making the proper case of bringing water treatment and supply back into public control.

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