Thanet council has refuted claims that plants, wildlife and ‘rocks’ have been damaged during a clean out of the Madeira Walk waterfall in Ramsgate.
Cllr Suzanne Brimm, who is vice chair of the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Thanet branch, says she was appalled to be told water lillies and other established plant life that help control the flow of water had been pulled out of the fountain.
She also says jet-washing of the pulhamite ‘rocks’ and draining of the waterfall may have killed off Great Crested Newts.
She said: “The pulhamite rock is very soft. The juvenile newts hibernate in the mud but the adults hibernate under the rocks and these were being jet washed.”
Cllr Brimm says she reported the work to Natural England and asked if a conservation licence – needed if Great Crested Newts are present as they are a protected species -had been issued.
Natural England said they had no record of a licence for the works. A complaint has now been lodged with the police.
Thanet council says it gained permission for works on the waterfall in 2016 but then had to change the timings of that work. A spokesman said it was moved to this month as Great Crested Newts are unlikely to be present between November 1 to January 31 – making a licence unnecessary.
Cllr Fairbrass, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Environmental Services said: “Work has taken place to clean and cut back overhanging vegetation at the Madeira Walk waterfall in Ramsgate. This will allow for the future repair of lighting and pumps.
“Permission was secured in 2016 and work timed this year (so as) not to affect the newt population and no silt has been removed, to ensure the newts can be returned to their habitat.
‘Bags of rubbish’
“In addition to washing the structure down, Thanet District Council has also cleared more than 10 bags of rubbish and debris thrown into the pond by members of the public including cans, plastic, washing up bottles and even bricks.
“While it is a man-made feature the Madeira Walk waterfall is home to wildlife and we urge people to respect that rather than using it as a litter bin.”
The waterfall was created when, in 1894, the Borough Council of Ramsgate decided to welcome new visitors to the town by changing its appearance from that of a busy fishing port to one with picturesque gardens and promenades.
One of the first stages of the plan was to create a new road to wind up from the harbour to the East Cliff, to be called Madeira Walk.
James Pulham and Son carried out the work, making it look as if it had been cut through a steep gorge, with rocky ‘cliffs’ on either side.
They built the Pulhamite ‘rocks’ shoring up the steep banks of the gorge, including the artificial cascade of the waterfall.
Madeira Walk cost nearly £60,000 to build and, because of the cost, the waterfall was dubbed ‘the rate-payers’ tears’.
The waterfall is regularly targeted by pranksters who put foaming agents in the water. An incident last November cost TDC around £1,000 to clean up. Dyes and detergents can damage fountain parts.
Great Crested Newts
Great Crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.
Capturing, killing, disturbing or injuring great crested newts deliberately or damaging or destroying a breeding or resting place is against the law.
Offenders could get an unlimited fine and up to 6 months in prison for each offence.