Keeping the peace at Coldingham Bay
COLDINGHAM Bay is one of Scotland's best beaches and in order to keep it that way and ensure that everyone visiting can enjoy themselves, a number of beach rules are being introduced regarding walking dogs, overnight camping and lighting fires.
The beach gained a coveted Blue Flag in May this year - recognition by Keep Scotland Beautiful of its excellent water quality and environment management - but with 20,000 visitors a year visiting the beach there is a combined threat to the environment and incidents of anti-social behaviour leading Scottish Borders Council to look at introducing a set of management rules for Coldingham Bay.
When SBC's Berwickshire Area Committee met this week, councillors were asked to approve the rules that had been drawn up and were told: "The popularity of the beach has led to a number of complaints by members of the public and 22 police incident reports over misbehaviour since 2008.
There is also an increasing threat from overnight camping and fires to the lime and marram grasses which hold together the sand dunes and retard erosion of the dunes by wind."
Neil Mackay, SBC's access officer told councillors: "The whole ethos is to promote responsible use of Coldingham Bay.
"The council has owned Coldingham Bay since 1973 and in the last five or six years has won awards before being awarded Blue Flag status which has knock-on effects on the management of the beach."
Agreeing to implement the management rules drawn up by Scottish Borders Council, Berwickshire councillors were told that the rules will be enforced by the beach guards during the summer season and community warden teams for the rest of the year.
And if these rules prove ineffective the council will look at it again and consider stronger measures - such as bylaws - if required.
During the summer months -June to September - dogs can be taken onto the beach provided they are on a lead and their owner cleans up any mess made by the dog. For the rest of the year dogs can be exercised on the beach off the lead provided they are under close control, and again the owner clears up after them.
No fires are to be lit, or anything burnt on the beach or surrounding area without prior permission; barbecues, however will be allowed but must be kept off the grass and wooden surfaces and all rubbish removed afterwards.
And putting up tents or any other structure within the bay area is also frowned upon.
"Those camping overnight tend to camp in the marran and lime grass which has added to the erosion," added Mr Mackay.
Anyone who is suspected of either having breached these rules or suspected of being about to do so will be asked to leave the beach and any persistent rule breakers will be banned from the beach for up to a year.
For many years now there have been beach huts on Coldingham Sands and the owners have also had to renegotiate their rights with the council and in 2008 they formed a Beach Hut Owners Association when SBC suggested a number of the contentious additions to the beach hut leases.
Councillor Michael Cook asked about how the new rules would impact on hut owners but was assured that the new regulations were not at odds with the hut owners' leases which cover them.
He said: "Coldingham Bay is a marvellous asset that the council has. These new management rules are just the tip of a very large iceberg which is a management plan through to 2015.
"I think the management plan was good and I think this is a perfectly straight fowards use of management rules."
Back in 2008 one hut owner said: "The council took remedial action some years ago, planting coastal grasses and installing new steps down to the beach to stop the erosion, meaning a number of hut sites were removed or leases allowed to expire.
"As the waiting list for huts seems to be the main bug-bear for the council, it would seem to make sense to re-instate the previous sites and reduce the waiting list."
However, SBC made it clear that they had no plans to reinstate the huts that had been removed adding:
"A new Beach Management Plan is proposed for inclusion in the 2008/09 Business Plan that will build on research already carried out, seek an appropriate balance between environmental, economic and social needs, consult with a range of stakeholders and develop a policy and method for future management."
And it was another phase of this business plan that councillors gave the go ahead to this week.