Cuckmere Haven: Environment Agency responds to concerns as MP calls to dredge flooded river

An MP is calling for the Environment Agency to dredge the River Cuckmere – or appoint someone who will – amid concerns of ‘devastating’ flooding.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 12:16 pm
Cuckmere Haven before and after flooding. Both pictures by Jon Rigby.
Cuckmere Haven before and after flooding. Both pictures by Jon Rigby.

Polegate MP Maria Caulfield said she recently met with representatives of the body to urge them to dredge the river but they refused.

However, Ms Caulfield says the Pevensey and Cuckmere Water Level Management Board has decided to utilise its reserves to fund an urgent ‘one-off’ de-shingle of the river mouth at Cuckmere Haven.

Cuckmere valley in flood

The water board is working closely with the Friends of the Cuckmere to ensure there is long term plan to manage water levels in the valley this winter.

This comes after the situation was called a “crisis” as water levels rose significantly in recent months, creeping closer to homes and flooding watersports business Buzz Active.

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Ms Caulfield said, “I want local residents in the Cuckmere Valley to be assured this is a priority for me to support both the Friends of the Cuckmere and the Pevensey Water Board in dredging the river this winter and then secure a long-term plan for the area.

Cuckmere valley in flood

“This may in the long-term work out better for the area than being dependant on a reluctant Environment Agency, who have left the area to flood with the potential for devastating floods further up river.”

The Environment Agency speaks out

The Environment Agency has defended its decision not to dredge the river, saying it will not spend public funds unless there is a risk to people’s homes.

A spokesperson told the Herald that, back in 2007, it cost £50,000 to do so, and the cost would likely by significantly higher now.

They said, “It takes a significant effort and resources. We haven’t walked away at all. We haven’t completely ruled out clearing shingle but there has to be a significant flood risk to properties because we are using tax-payers’ money.

“The bigger picture as to why we are leaving the estuary is to allow it to return to its natural state. We are trying to get it back to how it was decades ago before.

“We don’t believe there’s a flood risk to properties. “For us to intervene we assess the needs of flood protection based on evidence – how many homes are at risk and how much it would cost.

“As a publicly-funded body we have to ensure money is spent where it can achieve the greatest benefit.

“With Climate Change we are more likely to see more floods. There’s a finite amount of money at our disposal. The important thing with Cuckmere is we have not walked away.”