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Southend in Jet Ski Battle of the Thames Estuary - Baywatch is back

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

There is much happening in the world at the moment, but that doesn't mean to say that the little things should be ignored.


Rogue Jet skiers and BBQs on the beach were discussed at the recent cabinet meeting.


What is a very serious issue for some was presented in a manner that requires a five-level filter to avoid low-level sarcasm and mockery. Unfortunately, I do not possess that filter.


Southend has become Baywatch!


As a child of the 80s and 90s sometimes I become nostalgic about a bygone era, and there are moments where reminiscing is an indulgence that becomes quite magical.


As I dutifully noted the details of the cabinet meeting in order to relay it to the few people that take an interest in local politics, I was blissfully unaware I would be inspired by one such moment.


During a cabinet member's speech about banning jet skis, I was reminded of those easy Saturday nights when David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson would chase criminals across the water in an adrenaline fuelled, low budget action packed show of heroism.


The terror that jet skiers have apparently been causing innocent Southend citizens has finally found an end with the stroke of the council pen.


The Councillor said “Essex police, as always, like to have big boy's toys. To the jet skiing fraternity, you will no longer be able to outrun them. They have better jet skis than you will ever have!”




There was a war being fought upon our shores that I believe to have been hidden from most of Southend.


Perhaps it was thought that we Southendians were too soft of heart and sweet of spirit to be readily equipped to handle such heinous acts of barbarism against water.


Those brave men and women who have been fighting this war have been unsung and unheard.


I would imagine it to have been a bloody battle that would rival any in our rich British history. Salty water in the eye. Getting wet.


But now the gang of jets’ days are numbered!


Resources


If it is true, that Essex Police really have acquired jet skis to catch the rogue jet skiers, then we are now assured they will be captured and issued with fixed notice penalties.


Resources well spent in time and assets. Forget the cost-of-living crisis, some things are more important.


Presumably, crime has plummeted.


Drug dealing and anti-social behaviour important, but with the backing of the council, jet skiers have jumped the pecking order.


The police will no doubt welcome having to don their red swim shorts/swimming costumes and jump on their ‘boy's toys’.


Taking on the jets was not an easy undertaking. It, perhaps, wouldn’t occur to most men to focus such efforts on this blight.


One wonders what the jet skiers did to arouse such ferocity in the Councillor who made it happen.


Like the BBQs on the beach ban, which was also confirmed in the Cabinet meeting, introducing a blanket ban on everyone because of the few irresponsibles has the slight scent of draconianism.


BBQs can cause serious problems, jet skis the same. Something should be done.


But we do not have BBQ police nor, I think, do we want to pay for them. We ought not to have Baywatch either. So how exactly are these bans going to be enforced?


I sincerely hope investment has not been made to introduce extra resources to monitor and contain these situations. If this is the case, something has gone horribly wrong.


Was it really a Consultation?


The consultation for both issues was a detailed document that would have taken a lot of effort to put together i.e., expensive.


As always, very few people knew about it, much less contributed. Whilst it is indisputably a consultation, it is disingenuous to say that Southend was in fact consulted.


Moreover, what is worse is that of those that did respond, only 50% or so were in favour of the ban. Majorities do not in of themselves make a healthy democracy, and this is another example where a wholesale change is made from a wafer-thin win.


We do not consult on car accidents even though they are frequent. We do not consult on children's parks even though there are presumably accidents on almost every trip! We do not consult on the seafront cycle lane even though there have been many accidents along there.


There are so many examples of circumstances where accidents have occurred far more frequently and seriously than jet skiing and BBQs, that it is hard to understand why these became such a priority. Just for the record, there have been zero deaths caused by a jet skier in Southend. This is not to say they are not a danger, just making the comparison.


Rejoice


There will be those in Southend that will rejoice at the result, but this will not stop people doing what they want to do.


The jet skiers just needed to be invited to a meeting to discuss a compromise on whatever the problems were. What were they doing that needed to change? Would they have been willing to change without police intervention? For those that did cause the problems, could they singularly not have been banned? What were the other options that were being explored?


Shoebury could be overrun as the only point of launch. Worse still, pushing the jet skiers to launch together will group more jet skiers in one place vastly increasing the odds of a collision. If an accident were to happen no one will point towards this policy being a contributing factor because the liability would be too much to take responsibility for.


The result also had something inevitable about it. It just so happens that this ruling 'would bring the same restrictions that apply in the surrounding area managed by the Port of London Authority (PLA)', according to the council.


In regard to the BBQers, they just needed some more guidance around safety on east beach and any other known hotspots. What is in place at the moment? What could be in place? Were those responsible for causing problems reported? How many problems were reported? At what point did it become such as issue?


Indifference


As it happens, I am indifferent to both rulings. I have never had a BBQ on the beach nor ridden a jet ski. Neither have ever caused me an issue.


I could be accused of bias as I have recently become involved in saving the Southend Marine Activity Centre (SMAC), and this would deprive people from learning how to jet ski. Not the end of the world as there are many other water sports, but all the same, as a population who live next to the sea, it is a shame that most will not get to experience all there is to offer.


Would I reverse the decision? Only to speak to the people involved to see if they could adequately answer the questions I had posed earlier.


If it was clear that the jet skiers were intent on causing havoc and the BBQers ready to burn the place down, then the decision would be easier.


I still have severe reservations as to the increased risks this policy poses and hope nothing does happen, and I would happily be proven wrong.


As it stands though, Cabinet agreed the report and the two issues that we didn’t know we cared about are now passed.

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