Coastal recreation and byelaws
The Public Health acts of 1936 and 1961 and the Local Government Act 1972 give the council the legal power to create and enforce byelaws regulating activities on the beach and water users up to 1000 yards out from mean low water. Chichester District Council has created 3 byelaws to do this. They are the Byelaws for:
- The Seashore which regulates dangerous games, trading, excessive noise, public shows, fires / BBQ's and horse riding on the beach.
- Seaside Pleasure boats which limits watercraft to 8 knots up to 300m from mean low water.
- Navigation of Sailboards which regulates dangerous windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Following several incidents involving jet skis and a public survey in 1990 the council resolved to limit the use of jet skis along it's shoreline. This proved not possible through the vehicle of byelaws but as land owner of the foreshore the council resolved to ban jet skis / personal watercraft from launching / recovering from council owned slipways. Whilst the council cannot prevent jet skis from navigating in tidal water they are obliged to stick within the 8 knot speed limit within 300 yards of mean low water.
There are also various other laws that apply to beach users such as the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea ('Colregs') , section 34 of the Road Traffic Act that prohibits motorised vehicles on the beach, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 making it an offense to harm animals, plants, birds and the protected fossils beds.
Chichester District Council manages nine miles of coastline from Pagham Harbour to Chichester Harbour. The entire district coastline has stunning views from Pagham Harbour nature reserve at the Eastern end to views across Chichester Harbour and the Solent in the West. The whole district coastline is important for migrating birds and between Selsey and Bracklesham there is a Site of Specific Interest (SSSI) which is also renowned for fossils from the Eocene period 45 million years ago.
There are several caravan and camping sites in the area and the village of East Wittering offers local shops, cafes and restaurants.
Well controlled barbecues are permitted all along the council run beach from Shore Road in East Wittering to Park Copse in Selsey. In the past coastal defence works have been ignited so we ask that barbecues are kept a minimum of two meters away from wooden groynes and coastal breasts. To avoid upsetting residents we request that barbecues are a minimum of five meters away from private property. Consideration should also be given to wind direction and people in the vicinity. Late night barbecues are to be avoided as can be an annoyance to residents.
There are glorious sandy beaches at West Wittering and East Head which are very popular in the summer months. Bracklesham and Selsey also have splendid gently shelving sandy beaches approximately 2 hours either side of high tide. The area is ideal for a wide range of water sports including swimming, sailing, windsurfing, sea fishing, surfing and diving. There are many different coastal based clubs in the area most of which are listed in our Sports club directory.
The beaches at Selsey, Bracklesham Bay, and West Wittering typically achieve "excellent" water quality ratings and have all passed the stringent European Environment Commission (EEC) bathing water quality standards.
There are three main car parks along our stretch of coast. Parking is available at East Beach and Hillfield Road in Selsey, parking is also available adjacent to the Bracklesham Bay foreshore office where a parking charge is made during the summer months.
Well behaved dogs are allowed everywhere on the beach at Bracklesham and East Wittering. However, at Selsey there is a dog free zone (May-September) by East Beach slipway, between groynes E26 and E33. There are signs on the promenade which indicate the dog free zone. The restrictions are in place between 1 May and 30 September each year, and dogs must be held on a lead while walking the sea wall.
Before lighting a barbecue we suggest you plan how you will dispose of it. If you are going to be on the beach all day then it may have a chance to naturally cool down enabling you to put it in one of the bins provided. If you only plan to be on the beach for a couple of hours then you need to have the means to extinguish the fire. We suggest using sea water, please do not bury disposable barbecues under the shingle as the shingle remains hot and sometimes cracks creating sharp edges which is a hazard for beach users.
We operate a foreshore service along the coast from Pagham Harbour to Chichester Harbour from Easter to the end of September to enforce the byelaws and ensure public safety.
This service is based at the Bracklesham Bay Boat Office. Please contact the Foreshore office for further information and advice.
Summer season 2023
Our Foreshores service will start for the summer season this Monday 3 April. We will be offering our full range of usual services, keeping the beaches at Bracklesham, Selsey, and East Wittering safe and tidy.
Our boat launching and recovery service for the public operates 7 days per week (weather and sea state permitting). For people wishing to use this service, please contact our Foreshores team before travelling. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01243 672133.
Horses are permitted throughout the year on our beaches from the entrance to Pagham Harbour to our boundary edge at Shore Road in Wittering. However due care and attention must be paid to users of the beach, they are not permitted to jump the breakwaters or race on the beach and owners must clean up after their horses.
One of the biggest complaints about barbecues is the increased litter. Please either take your litter home or put it in one of the bins provided. It may sound obvious but some people don't realise the tide comes in and if the barbecue is still hot then you will have difficulty moving it up the beach.
Chichester District Council's slipways were originally created for coastal defence purposes however the council allows the launching of public vessels (excluding personal watercraft / jet skis) at three locations along the foreshore between Chichester and Pagham Harbours. Please observe the 8 knot speed limit within 300 metres of mean low water. Anybody found breaking this speed limit is liable to prosecution.
The slipway at Bracklesham is often covered in shingle which prevents access during the winter. From April to September the Foreshore Service periodically clears the ramp and provides a launch and recovery service, subject to weather conditions and resource availability.
For safety reasons the public are requested not to use their own vehicle to launch or recover their vessel as even 4x4's will get stuck blocking the slipway for other users and potentially preventing the safety boats from being launched in an emergency. Please note that the Road Traffic Act 1988 prohibits the use of motorised vehicles on the beach and the Police may be called, the council has special permission from the Crown Estates to use the tractor and it's emergency vehicles.
In October 2011 Chichester District Council constructed a new slipway at East Beach, Selsey. It was funded through a pathfinder grant received from Defra and replaced an old ramp that due to shingle build-up became unusable. The new slipway is available for free public use (apart from Jetskis) throughout the year although trailers left in the car park must have a separate parking ticket. Please note that the gradient of the ramp steepens towards the seaward end so that vehicles do not have to drive too far in to the water, however vehicles may struggle for traction particularly two wheel drive cars, towing larger vessels, when the ramp is wet. You use the slipway at your own risk, we recommend that you have adequate help and if in any doubt consider using a strong rope connected between the trailer and the car.
The slipway at Hillfield Road car park in Selsey is often covered in shingle. It also has restricted access due to a "dog leg" which prevents larger vessels from launching. Small craft can be launched here but careful consideration must be given to tidal conditions due to the strong currents in this area. There are also various hazardous underwater reefs and banks just off the shoreline and we recommend a chart is consulted.
Chichester District Council leases the foreshore at Bracklesham, East Wittering and Selsey. There are byelaws in place that restrict commercial activities, such as selling food and drink or providing commercial services, e.g., fitness classes. For this reason we do not grant licences for commercial activities on the foreshore.
The council owns some of the land adjacent to the foreshore. Some of this land can be used for commercial activities (subject to obtaining a licence). However there are some areas of land at Bracklesham that are legally required to be kept as free open public space and cannot therefore be used for commercial activities.
We licence operators to ensure that:
- the council is aware of activities taking place on its land
- access to and use of public open space is preserved for all visitors
- foreshore visitors can benefit from, enjoy and engage in activities in a variety of outdoor environments
- activities are suitably risk assessed and appropriate insurance is in place.
If you wish to charge people for attending an activity at the beach or advertise or sell a product or service contact the Foreshore Officer on 01243 534587 for an initial discussion.
Licenses are granted through the council's Estates department. The cost of a licence is dependent on the type of activity taking place. Admin charges may also be applied.