The district council may have to re-think plans to make a trial kite-surfing zone at Bracklesham a permanent feature.
Representations were made on behalf of geologists and fossil hunters at a Chichester District Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Any reconsideration depends on whether ‘specific independent evidence’ on the area’s value for fossil-hunting is submitted – within the next 26 days.
Geologist David Bone, who has led visits to Bracklesham and Selsey for more than 30 years, said this stretch of coast was internationally important for its geology.
He said the area was also a designated site of special scientific interest.
“The proposed zone is directly within the best location for finding fossils, even when the fossil-bearing beds are covered by each sand,” he added.
Both kite surfers and fossil-hunters used the beach at the same time, around the low tide, and fossil-hunting was an activity that required a lot of concentration, looking at the ground – they would not be aware of potential danger from the air.
The cabinet agreed a kite-surfing zone should be implemented, based on the location of the current trial zone. It also supported a proposal by Cllr John Connor, the cabinet member responsible for foreshores, that the designation should be confirmed within the next 28 days unless specific independent evidence regarding the area’s unique value for fossil-hunting was submitted to the satisfaction of himself and the director of home and community.
If such evidence was submitted, a further report on the designation of the zone would be made to the cabinet.
Cllr Connor said he was sure everyone appreciated the concerns of this group, and the efforts that had been taken to ensure fair access was maintained for all.
“We want to work with the groups on the ground to agree codes of conduct that will help improve public safety and appropriate behaviour, given the range of uses, and advise user groups about the requirement for insurance for various activities,” he added.
The cabinet debate followed public consultation on management arrangements for the foreshore, its increasing use by kite surfers, and the potential conflict between groups including surfers, horse-riders and fossil-hunters.
Other steps agreed on Tuesday in the wake of the consultation, which attracted 1,146 responses, included:
* Codes of conduct to be developed with user groups for foreshore uses, to ensure safe practice.
* An invitation to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to advise on the new arrangements and review the council’s signage and working practices accordingly.
The cabinet decided not to implement zones for swimming. More than 51 per cent of responses to the consultation disagreed with the idea of zones, compared to 41 per cent in favour.
The survey showed nearly 60 per cent of respondents agreed with the kite-surfing zone, trialled for the last two years, remaining in the current location (east of the slipway at Bracklesham). It was also recommended horses were not restricted on the foreshore.