Sea coalers could soon be able to legally access beaches in Hartlepool after a new licensing scheme won the support of councillors.
The introduction of annual licences for sea coalers’ vehicles has won the backing of members of Hartlepool Council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee.
The Crown Commissioners lease the town’s beaches to the council, and under the current terms, it must not allow vehicles on the sands.
However, a provisional deal has now been reached to vary the lease to grant sea coalers access, with the Crown Commissioners charging £50 for an annual licence for each sea coal vehicle.
The council will run the licence scheme, but will waive its usual £20 administration fee.
Sea coalers will require public liability insurance and will have to produce valid MOT and insurance certificates before being granted a licence.
Without the variation of the lease, the council feared that sea coalers would be trespassing if they went onto beaches – rendering their insurance invalid – and it would be acting illegally by failing to prevent access.
Last year, these concerns prompted the council to temporarily block beach access to sea coalers, pending the outcome of the lease variation application.
Coun Marjorie James said: “I am pleased that the council has been able to reach provisional agreement with the Crown Commissioners to vary the existing lease agreement to allow sea coalers to access beaches legally.
“This is a long-running issue and it is nice to reach a conclusion that the sea coalers themselves are happy with.
“Sea coaling is a long-standing tradition in Hartlepool, with successive generations of some families being involved in the trade.
“It is reassuring that under the terms of the licensing scheme members of the public and the sea coalers themselves will have insurance protection should anything untoward happen.
“Our beaches are some of town’s most important natural assets and we also recognise the contribution that sea coalers make in helping to keep them clean.”