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'They've won' - Fisherman quits Norfolk beach over abuse - but does not regret putting fence up

PUBLISHED: 15:47 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:47 09 August 2019

David Chambers. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

David Chambers. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

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Fisherman David Chambers never expected such an outcry after he erected a security fence and gate at West Runton beach.

However well-intentioned his motives might have been in installing the gate, and he says he did it to protect the future rights of fishermen, beachgoers, tourists and locals all roundly condemned his actions.

The abuse his family have suffered led to the gate being taken down about a week after it was put up, he said.

And, more importantly, Mr Chambers said he had now decided to quit fishing at West Runton beach.

This has led to several redundancies among the fishermen he employed, but he said: "I won't have my vehicles down there anymore.

People protesting against gate at West Runton beach. It has now been removed. L-R, Bev Burnham, Liz Quigley, Nigel and Teresa Turner. Pictures: David BalePeople protesting against gate at West Runton beach. It has now been removed. L-R, Bev Burnham, Liz Quigley, Nigel and Teresa Turner. Pictures: David Bale

"They've won. I will fish back at Morston. Five or six fishermen have handed their notices in, and about 120 customers are not very happy."

But he said he did not regret putting up the fence.

The great-grandfather, 72, from Briston, near Melton Constable, said: "I don't regret putting it up, but I do regret the timing of it. It was done at the wrong time of the year, just after the children went on their school holidays. And I should have put notices up, telling people what we were doing.

"The decision to put up the gate was made by the Norfolk Independent Fishermen's Association, which has about 15 members.

David Chambers. Picture: Victoria PertusaDavid Chambers. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

"There were three fishermen working at West Runton, me, my son James Chambers, and John Dorrie. James had reservations about how locals would take putting up the fence.

"The idea was only to restrict access whilst recovering and launching vessels due to the volume of people on the beach and the abuse we were receiving from some people.

"A phone call would have been made ashore and the lifeguards would have shut the gate, so no-one would have been on the pathway.

"If you are lifting an engine off a boat, you don't want 50 people around you, without it being controlled.

Fisherman David Chambers.  Picture:: Steve AdamsFisherman David Chambers. Picture:: Steve Adams

"And we did it for the safety of walkers. When you tow a boat and tractor down the beach and onto the pathway, it can be dangerous.

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"It's a commercial beach and the land is not a public right of way."

He said hundreds of people had backed his actions, but he no longer wanted the aggro from naysayers.

"Fishermen are there to help. When it's bad weather, only the fishermen will go out to help people. The gates were never intended to be locked," he added.

The reaction on social media has surprised him, he said.

"In the end James (Chambers) and I agreed we had to take the fence down, because of the animosity from dog-walkers, and interference from the public.

"We had people from Australia threatening us. I did not think I would get that."

He claims that North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) inspected the fence and gave its approval, and then back-tracked by telling him to take it down.

He added: "We would never have gone ahead with it, a £4,000 job, if they hadn't. And the emergency services were happy with it, before it went up."

A NNDC spokesman said: "We would like to categorically state that we were neither consulted nor gave permission for the gates and fencing to be erected at West Runton. As we said earlier this week our priority is always to ensure free access to our beaches for all users, we want everyone to be able to enjoy our beautiful natural environment."

Mr Chambers would also like to point out that, contrary to rumour, he was not a Londoner, telling the locals what to do.

He was born in Denham, Bucks, of a half-Irish father and a Cockney mother, and he lived in a two-room terraced house growing up.

He said he had done well out of the fishing business.

He was a guardsman in the British army before taking up the trade.

He added: "I'm not a bully and never bullied anyone. When you're 6ft tall and you touch anyone you're a bully, but I've always stood my ground."

Mr Chambers is an executive director of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO).

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