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Herne Bay, England, CT6
United Kingdom

Community website for all things Herne Bay (Kent, UK). Covers: The Downs, Herne Bay Museum, Herne Bay Historical Records Society, Herne Bay Pier Trust, Herne Bay in Bloom, East Cliff Neighbourhood Panel, No Night Flights, Manston Airport, Save Hillborough, Kitewood, WEA, Local Plan and much, much more...

Friends of the Downs

Brown-tail moth caterpillars


We need your help with this...

Brown-tail moth caterpillars, and one of their "tents"

Brown-tail moth caterpillars, and one of their "tents"

It looks like the relatively mild winter has been kind to the brown-tail moth, and we're already seeing their little tents popping up across the Downs.

The brown-tail moth has always lived and nested on the Downs. Like all of us, it has good years and bad years. In good years, the moths will make dozens of nests ("tents") in bushes and shrubs all over the Downs, with each nest containing dozens of hairy little caterpillars.

The hairs on the caterpillars can cause a stinging rash (a bit like nettles), and if inhaled can apparently be a nuisance for people with asthma and similar breathing difficulties.

If all the caterpillars successfully pupate, emerge and repeat their breeding cycle, it could make the Downs unpleasant for any people who are particularly sensitive to the mild irritation they can cause.

Here's how you can help

An hour of your time, on Saturday or Sunday morning. You'll need a pair of gardening gloves (to protect you from the caterpillars' hairs and the spiky bushes they live in), a pair of secateurs or similar, and a bucket to put the tents in. It's a good idea to have a hand-held sprayer filled with a mild detergent solution to squirt them with - this stops them all jumping out of their tents when you get near them. Then we'll just chuck them in the sea - a lot safer and sounder than burning them!

If you would like to help - and this would be HUGELY appreciated - please email me at:

and I'll sort out the best time for the most people. We'll be concentrating on the eastern end of the Downs, by the Reculver Drive car park.

Many thanks.

Friends of the Downs home page

Doing your bit for democracy


There is a campaign afoot to improve the way our Council is run, by making it more democratic.

The current "Leader & Executive" system concentrates power in just a few hands, resulting in decisions (fighting the village green application, the Westgate Towers traffic trial, the Local Plan and so on) that are against the public interest, and even against the wishes of councillors who are outside the central clique.

The Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury District aims to correct this by raising enough signatures on a petition to trigger a referendum calling for our Council to be run on the more democratic committee-based system.

You can do your bit by signing the petition, which you can download here.

Even better - and this really would make a difference - you could help by leafleting your street. Just drop me a line at and I'll bring you a fistful of leaflets.

This is your chance to make a lasting improvement to the way our Council works for you.

Friends of the Downs home page

Village green decision on hold


Kent County Council has decided to defer any decision about the Downs, pending the outcome of another court case.

There is another village green application (near Whitby) that is known as the Barkas case - all these cases are named after the applicant, rather than the piece of land involved. As so often happens, this case pivots on the fine distinction between the use being "by right" or "as of right", i.e. whether the users of the land have actually been given the right to use it, or whether they are are acting as if they had the right to use it.

The important additional feature in this case is that the land in question is owned by the local Council (as is the the Downs), who argue that use is "by right" (as do our Council). The Barkas case has been through public inquiry, and has been appealed against, and has worked its way up the hierarchy of courts, all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court heard the case at the beginning of April and will pronounce its decision in June or July.

In the light of this potentially landmark decision, KCC have sensibly decided to defer any decision on the Downs, and the village green application for Kingsmead Field in Canterbury.

Just a quick note to let you know that as a result of the decision at the Kingsmead meeting, we have decided to also put this case on hold until the Supreme Court's decision in the Barkas case has been published. It does not make sense to refer this to Committee now when no doubt the same points will be made regarding deferment.

I will be in touch again once the Barkas case has been decided (unless our position changes for any reason in the meantime).

So, we wait, fingers crossed. Here's the summary of the case from the Supreme Court website:

Case summary


Whether members of the public using a recreation ground, which has been provided for that purpose by a local authority in the exercise of its statutory powers, do so "by right" or "as of right".


The Appellant applied to register a playing field in Whitby as a town/village green on under s.15(2) of the Commons Act 2006 as a significant number of local inhabitants had indulged as of right in lawful sports/pastimes on the land for at least 20 years. The land was acquired in 1951 as a site for the erection of council houses. S.80(1) of the Housing Act 1936 (consolidated in s.12(1) of the Housing Act 1985) gave local authorities the power to provide and maintain recreational grounds with the consent of the Minister.

The Appellant's application was rejected by the Respondent local authority based on the Inspector's conclusion (followed by the High Court and Court of Appeal) that, although the use of the land met all the requirements in s.15(2), the use for recreational purposes was "by right" and not "as of right". Reliance was placed on obiter in R(Beresford) v Sunderland CC [2004], where the House of Lords expressed reservations about treating recreational users as trespassers acting as of right not only where there was an express statutory trust for the recreational land, but where "the land had been appropriated for the purposes of public recreation". While the local authority was under no obligation to make the land recreational, the enabling enactment expressly gave it power, with ministerial consent, to provide a recreation ground in connection with housing, and was therefore land "appropriated for the purpose of public recreation". It was also very difficult to regard members of public harmlessly using such land as trespassers.

The Appellant submits that the Court of Appeal misconstrued Beresford, and that there is no express statutory wording (as in other similar statutes) to confer a right to prevent the use being as of right. The recreational use of the land under the Housing Acts is entirely a matter of discretion.


Appellant name: Christine Barkas
Respondent name: North Yorkshire County Council

Friends of the Downs home page

Council wastes £50k fighting village green


A campaigner embroiled in a bitter battle with council bosses over the future of a beauty spot has accused them of "spending money like water".

Phil Rose, of the Friends of The Downs in Herne Bay, spoke out after discovering officials have spent about £50,000 fighting his application to register the land as a village green - and that figure could rise.

Meanwhile, the council is proposing to close Herne Bay Whitstable and Canterbury's Heritage Museum for winter in order to save £65,000.

Mr Rose, of Beacon Hill, said:

"There has been no consultation with the museums' friends' groups, nor with residents asking whether this is what they want. On the other hand, the council is happy to spend money like water when it comes to fighting the public wish to register the Downs as a village green.
Let's put that £50,000 in context. It's more than the council will save by not having Christmas lights. It's more than the council will make in decades by charging local people to keep a boat on the beach. It would keep the Herne Bay Museum open full-time, instead of part-time, for another two to three years."

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Rose discovered the legal fees and officer time involved fighting the village green application had reached around £50,000. He also found that there was no upper limit to the expense that could be incurred. with a council lawyer telling him:

"When a decision has been made to contest a case such as this, then it will cost what it will cost."

Mr Rose said:

"After a lot of asking, the council has finally admitted that it has no record of asking members whether it should spend £50,000 on this - they just ran an 'open purse' policy. The council said it had to fight the application, as village green status would prevent coast defence work on the Downs. But Kent County Council's barrister said that this was a 'perverse' argument and that registration of the Downs as a village green would not interfere with any necessary coast defence work.
Meanwhile, just a few miles away, the council is having chats with Whitstable residents about making Prospect Field (also a coastal slope) a village green. Worst of all, Canterbury is happy to spend public money fighting what Herne Bay wants - £50,000 so far to deny us our village green."

Council spokesman Celia Glynn-Williams said the two issues should not be linked, adding:

"The council is now having to take some very tough decisions concerning its finances for the long term and the decision to move to seasonal openings for three of our museums was taken for sound commercial reasons and will generate annual savings in the future for the council of £65,000. The cost of the fighting the village green application for the Downs is a one-off cost that has largely already been spent."

She said officials still opposed the village green application because the land had sufficient protection under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields in Trust.

HB Times 22nd Aug 2013 

Friends of the Downs home page

Village Green - anniversary news


On 1st September 2009 I handed in my application to register the Downs as a village green. For more than four years Canterbury City Council has fought the application tooth and nail, against the wishes of the public, and spending over £50,000 in the process.

The Regulation Committee at Kent County Council (who decide whether or not to register land as a village green) met at the beginning of September. We were expecting VGA614 (our application) to be considered or resolved at this meeting, but it wasn't.

As you'll see in Section 5 of the first document below, there were 5 cases to be heard "in the next few weeks", but ours isn't one of them. And as you'll see in the second document, KCC are "awaiting legal advice" on our application.

KCC are in a rather tricky position. They decided, quite rightly, that this case was too complex for them to handle alone, and so employed a barrister to act as Inspector at a Public Inquiry. She recommended that about 85% of the Downs should be registered.

Canterbury City Council protested that her report was legally flawed, so KCC called in another barrister. (They couldn't re-use the first barrister, as would normally happen, because she had since been made a judge and was therefore out of bounds.) The second barrister recommended that about 5% of the land be registered.

So KCC are faced with a knotty problem, having two conflicting recommendations from their own independent legal experts. Whichever way they decide, they lay themselves open to the possibility of judicial review because either side can claim one of the independent recommendations is correct and should not have been ignored. Tricky. 

Friends of the Downs home page

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