Southwark mudlarkers are reporting that revised regulations from the Port London Authority (PLA) are as clear as mud, writes Kirsty Purnell…
Previously, mudlarkers – who search the Thames foreshore for washed up objects – believed they only needed a permit if they dug or scraped away at the surface.
However, as of November 2016, the PLA ruled that everybody who goes “searching” needs to pay for a permit.
The term “searching”, without a clear definition from the PLA, has left some Southwark mudlarkers scratching their heads. “Hundreds of people go down onto the foreshore every week just for a look,” said one local mudlarker who does not want to be named. “Do these people need a permit? Where does exploring end and searching begin? It’s really not clear”
The mudlarker has also criticised the PLA’s communication of the revised guidelines. The rules are not displayed on the foreshore for everyone to see, therefore making mudlarkers – particularly infrequent ones – unwittingly vulnerable to penalties from the PLA.
Mudlarkers also report that it is unclear who will police the new regulations and how.
However, Thames Explorer Trust point to the positives of permits, including protection of heritage and wildlife, safety and prevention against the misuse of the foreshore.
Author Ted Sandling, a regular mudlarker in Southwark, believes that the PLA’s guidance is clear enough yet is concerned that needing permits for “casual” searching may deter people from the past time. “It restricts casual mudlarkers and this is very damaging. It excludes the people who would go at the weekends or who are just starting off. I mudlarked casually for ten years before I got serious with a permit – people need the incubation period to get into,” said the author of London in Fragments.
A spokesperson for the PLA said: “It is important to emphasise we have had a foreshore permit scheme for mudlarkers, metal detectorists and others searching the foreshore for many years. The foreshore permit is nothing new.”
“In November last year, the PLA clarified the existing permit to make clear anyone searching, digging, scraping, metal detecting, examining or in any way looking for items, objects or artefacts on the foreshore needs to have a permit.”
“Finally, we can confirm that the latest guidance on the foreshore has been very clearly displayed on our website www.pla.co.uk since early November.”