Seaford Beach is looking ‘dangerously inadequate’ to protect the town, MP Norman Baker warned this week as recent storms have exposed the old sea wall and wooden groynes.
The MP wrote to the Environment Agency raising concerns about the extent to which the spell of extreme weather had eaten away at the beach, which acts as a flood defence for Seaford.
But the Environment Agency said while the exceptional weather had moved more shingle from the beach than usual, it did not believe there was a significant risk of coastal flooding.
Mr Baker said: “Fortunately, so far the stormy weather has caused little in the way of property damage or personal injury to my constituents in Seaford, but this looks more like luck than judgement.
“Nevertheless, I am very concerned by the rate that the stormy seas have eaten away at the beach which is of course the primary flood defence for the town.
“Events like this are predicted to become more common because of climate change, and action must be taken to restore the strength of the beach.”
Environment Agency flood and coastal risk manager Andrew Gilham said every winter the weather moved shingle, which was part of the flood defence for Seaford.
He said this was a natural process and every year the Environment Agency recycled the shingle on the beach twice a year in winter and spring.
Mr Gilham added: “The exceptional weather this winter has moved more of the shingle than usual.
“There is a substantial concrete seawall behind the shingle beach that protects Seaford and following recent inspections of the exposed areas by our officers, we do not believe there is a significant risk of coastal flooding to Seaford.
“We will be carrying out works from this week onwards to recycle the shingle.”
Seaford Beach has been hit hard by storm surges and large waves that have shifted a large amount of the shingle that usually absorbs the majority of the sea’s power.
Mr Baker said the Environment Agency had previously stated it would engage with Seaford residents when exploring options for preventing floods in the future.
Seaford and Newhaven will be looked at jointly because local schemes will provide mutual benefit.
Mr Baker said the Environment Agency had argued Newhaven would protect Seaford from flooding from the potential over topping of the tidal banks to the north, whilst Seaford would protect Newhaven from a tidal breach of the defences along the beach.
The Environment Agency has also said it was aware of concerns at community level over how the beach was managed, but that costs and benefits of alternative proposals were likely to make them prohibitive.
Norman called on the Environment Agency to consider the recent damage to the beach in any coastal management plans in the future.
The stormy weather has caused multiple cliff falls along the coast, including large cliff falls at Seaford Head and the Seven Sisters, according to Newhaven RNLI.
Alan Novis from Newhaven RNLI said: “At Newhaven Lifeboat we have been reiterating the Coastguard’s message to stay well away from the cliff edge as they are very unstable at present.”
Barry Johnson from Newhaven Coastguard said: “There has been a cliff fall at Seaford and you can see the top of the cliff has a thin overhang.
“This could collapse with someone’s weight on it.
“More cliff falls have occurred at Birling Gap as well.
“Please keep well back from cliff edges which are particularly unstable at the moment.”