Code of conduct to be drawn up for personal water craft users in Exmouth

Public feedback proves a Public Space Protection Order is not required at Belsher’s Slipway or Shelly Beach

East Devon District councillors have resolved not to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to  address reported issues of antisocial behaviour involving the use of personal water craft at Belshers Slipway and Shelly Beach in Exmouth.

The decision was made in light of overwhelming local feedback received by the council in response to a consultation it undertook, which asked for the public’s views on how a PSPO would impact on their use and enjoyment of these highly popular areas of Exmouth.

At a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet last week, councillors were presented with a report, which highlighted the findings of the consultation which was requested by the Exmouth Quay Residents Association and was carried out between 1 August and 7 September last year.

Responses were received from individuals, residents living in the vicinity, users of the beach and slipway and local interest groups, as well as the police, town and district councillors, and Devon County Council.

Headline findings from the consultation report were:

• 98% of individual users said that a PSPO would have a negative impact on their use and enjoyment of the area.
• 93% of water based organisations launch and recover at Belshers Slipway
• 94% of individuals said that there would be a negative impact on them if they were prevented from accessing and driving over to Shelly beach to launch craft
• 50% of residents stated that vehicles and watercraft being launched at the slipway and on the beach were not a problem
• 56% of residents said that a PSPO on the slipway and beach would have a negative impact on them
• 60% of residents stated that their quality of life had not been reduced by vehicle use on the beach or watercraft using Belsher’s
• Only 30% of residents said that the launching of personal water craft at Belsher’s Slipway/Shelly Beach was a fairly big problem.

The main conclusion from the consultation was that there was little or no requirement for a PSPO, as it would limit access to the water. Of particular cause for concern was the issue that a PSPO would not be able to control jet skis on the water, as it cannot be imposed over water.

However, as a result of the consultation, two further positive approaches – to address the anti-social behaviour at the slipway and beach – were agreed by councillors.

Firstly, an alternative strategy that may include a harbour patrol boat to carry out more on-water enforcement, potentially funded by a partnership that would include East Devon, will now be investigated by the council.

Secondly, it was also agreed that council officers, including representatives from Environmental Health and Car Parks, will meet with the local group of personal water craft (PWC) users with the aim of drawing up a code of conduct for residents, visitors and PWC users.

Commenting on the agreement that there is currently no requirement for a PSPO at Belshers Slipway or Shelley Beach, Portfolio holder for the Environment, Councillor Iain Chubb, said: “We are a listening council, which respects the needs and concerns of all its residents and that is why we asked the local people of Exmouth for their views on a proposal, requested by other residents, who were concerned with the inappropriate behaviour of personal water craft users at Shelly Beach and Belshers Slipway.

“The strength of the public opinion that resulted from the consultation showed only too clearly the tremendous attachment that people have for this part of Exmouth. It was evident that the beach and slipway are considered valuable assets by the community and that they shouldn’t be interfered with. Local people are, however, keen to see a solution that involves greater enforcement and monitoring put in place.

“I, for one, am pleased that we are now able to move forward with the aim of securing additional funds to buy a suitable harbor patrol craft in 2016 to carry out more on-water enforcement. This is a positive outcome and together with a proposed code of conduct, we aim to make Belshers Slipway and Shelly Beach safe and happy environments to be enjoyed in peace by both residents and water craft enthusiast alike.”