WE must correct the impression Andy Robertson of ESCC creates, about what occurred during the ‘consensus finding’ session at the end of the Cuckmere Estuary decision meeting on June 7, after the result itself had been announced.
He is quite wrong to say that “everyone was given the opportunity to comment on the assessments”.
There were, ESCC state, 120 people at the meeting. At most approximately 30 of these had the opportunity to speak before Andy closed the meeting at 7pm. At no point was a further poll taken during this session.
Those who did speak expressed sharply differing views. They reached no “consensus” to marry together the diametrically opposed options D and C, which it is well known are favoured by different groups of people.
The few who did support Andy in this shotgun wedding were inevitably supporters of the wetland scheme because they – like ESCC whose Transport and Environment Committee has adopted a wetland policy for the estuary since 2007 – had been disappointed when the scoring resulted in a decision to maintain the banks.
But what about those 80 or 90 people who did not have the chance, or the confidence, to call for the microphone and speak at this major event? How did ESCC gauge their views? Did Andy sniff the breeze, or somehow read their minds? He certainly did not risk a show of hands.
His version of events is that “at each stage, I sought agreement that I had correctly interpreted the views of the meeting and, if I had not, went back until I had agreement”.
But this bears no relation to the meeting we, and others we have spoken to, attended. There was no mechanism for it, and it did not happen.
We were interested to read Rodney Castleden’s letter, in which he defends ESCC’s interpretation of the result. It might have been helpful if he had also declared his interest, ie that he designed – with an inventiveness that we certainly acknowledge – the ‘Engineered Reactivation’ scheme which came second. As the scoring showed however his plan to reconnect the meanders, which also involves transforming the entire estuary into a tidal wetland, could not command the community’s support.
It is worth mentioning that the meanders could be dredged at minimal cost every few years, and refreshed with tidal water using sluices at each end. ESCC’s own water engineering consultants think this a feasible procedure. It could bring a more dynamic ecology to the meanders, without the radical consequences of Rodney’s scheme for the entire estuary. – also without the huge cost and disruption of demolishing and raising the A259 causeway and bridge, which his scheme entails.
Despite what Andy Robertson says, he knows estuary advice and engagement costs over the past decade now approach £1 million. His figure of £250,000 relates to the most recent Pathfinder Project, which he led.
We do not expect him to concede that his project has rejected the policy his department has long espoused. But the local community has consistently opposed these plans, over many years.
Perhaps we – and the public purse – are entitled to some closure on deliberations now, and we can get on with implementing the decision we have taken to maintain the banks.
Dr Jill Rosser
and Tristram Hodgkinson