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Herne Bay coastwatch under threat

These people volunteer to save lives. They now have to buy themselves a new home because Canterbury City Council sold the ground from under them. This riles me.

They watch the coast to make sure those in peril are quickly saved. But now the Herne Bay National Coastwatch itself is under threat and must find £60,000 by October to stay afloat. The service, which monitors the shore and cliffs between Herne Bay and Reculver, is in jeopardy after their lookout on the Esplanade was sold by the council. Coastal Watch member Bob Eslea said:

"Canterbury City Council decided to sell the lease of the watch station. Our new landlords want to develop the building for their own use so that we will have to vacate in October 2010 when our lease expires. It has not been easy to find alternative premises with good views of the sea, cliffs, promenade and beach. The only possibility we have is to build a new watch station or face closure."

Bob says the organisation, formed in 1994 after two fisherman died in Cornwall because of a lack of coastal lookouts, needs good headquarters because it keeps an eye on events which may go under the radar. Bob said:

"Even with advancing technology the Maritime Coastguard Agency cannot spot the child on a lilo or dinghy being swept out to sea on the tide or a swimmer in trouble. They cannot watch over small fishing boats, jet bikes, yachts and other pleasure craft without radar reflectors; they cannot see the paragliders who launch from the cliffs or notice problems encountered by the public at large. There is a real need for National Coastwatch Institution stations."

Members are asking for money and fundraising ideas to keep the service alive. Member Roger Atkins said:

"It was a bit of a shock when we heard we have to move out of our present premises. We have to raise the money. It is the cheapest option to have our own dedicated watch station. We need to have eyes on the coast and we've had quite a few incidents where we've alerted the emergency services to inflatable boats drifting out to sea. We're considering all sorts of options including chasing big donors and looking at a National Lottery grant."

HB Times 11th Feb 2010

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