Council decision jeopardizes future of 400-year old oyster production

Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WFOC) has been served an enforcement notice to remove all of the oyster trestles, bags, and buoys from their beach location within a two-month period. 

The order from Canterbury City Council threatens to put an end to more than 400 years of oyster production in the U.K. town of Whitstable.

While WOFC owns the area of land where the trestles are situated, the metal structures have caused controversy regarding safety, and whether their placement on the beach breaches licensing laws.

WOFC said the order comes despite a letter from Terry Dawson of the council’s planning department, dated 30 July 2010, which said: “This LPA are of the opinion that the metal trestles do not constitute development and therefore are not controllable under planning legislation.”

The oyster business, which uses the trestles to grow Pacific oysters, had expanded its production area based on this advice. But a letter of 9 January 2018 stated the council’s belief that there had been a breach of planning.

In a statement, James Green, managing director of WFOC, said, “We are the only oyster company producing Whitstable Oysters. The council pursuing enforcement action will result in the 2018 Oyster Festival being the last oyster festival where Whitstable oysters will be available.

“Oyster production is intrinsic to the Whitstable Oyster Company; a business that employs 200 people whose jobs are now threatened by this action.”

The Whitstable Oyster Festival, which celebrates the town’s oyster farming heritage is due to take place on 21 and 22 July.


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