'I would dig up the saltmarsh and go to jail to protect Cleethorpes beach', says Councillor John Fenty
A COUNCILLOR says he is prepared to go to jail to protect Cleethorpes beach from the "rampant" spread of the saltmarsh.
Councillor John Fenty (Con, Humberston and New Waltham) said that if the saltmarsh continued to encroach upon the resort's golden sands he would dig it up himself and "take the consequences".
He urged the council to negotiate a more "sensible" agreement with Natural England over the removal of the vegetation, warning: "If we allow this rampant growth it will look shocking."
Under the Cleethorpes Habitat Management Plan, which was adopted by Cabinet in 2011, the council and Natural England agreed upon a line marking out where selected removal of the saltmarsh could take place.
The dividing line runs across the beach level with the handrail on the promenade next to the leisure centre car park. Removal is only permitted north of this line, where the main tourist beach is located.
However, Councillor Fenty believes that the council was too generous in its negotiations, and accused it of giving away the "crown jewels".
Speaking at a meeting of the regeneration and environment scrutiny panel, he said: "We accepted the five-year exercise and we have lost the opportunity to have a more sensible demarcation line.
"If the area up to the handrail is filled with saltmarsh it will look an absolute eyesore. It is imperative that we take this argument back to Natural England."
Councillor Fenty claimed that the line was originally proposed to be level with the leisure centre building itself, and had been moved by a previous portfolio holder.
However, the council's head of development, Jason Longhurst, said that the line had been fixed ever since the management plan was adopted in 2011.
He said: "The line has been established for two or three years now. That line is set and we will be adhering to that. There was a process in place and it went to Scrutiny. We will be having discussions with Natural England around how that is actively managed."
When asked by panel chairman Karl Wilson (Lab, Heneage) if there was any chance of moving the line, Mr Longhurst replied: "We would be opening ourselves up to serious amounts of pressure if we did that."
But Councillor Fenty added: "I think it is abominable that we are here. Quite frankly I would go to jail digging it out myself and taking the consequences."
To which Councillor Wilson quipped: "I will take photos of the evidence then."