THE decision reached by the community last Tuesday had the support of the vast majority of people who took part, and we’re only sorry that Jill and Tristram don’t agree with the outcome.
During the event, members of the community assessed the various options against pre-agreed criteria. There was no overwhelming ‘winner’, but two options emerged as frontrunners: Option D (maintaining the existing defences) achieved the highest ranking with a score of 3159, closely followed by Option C (reactivating the meanders) with a score of 2953.
When we designed this assessment process we anticipated that there might not be a clear winner, so, as planned, we then asked everyone present to take part in a shared discussion in order to attempt to reach a consensus. Everyone was given the opportunity to comment on the assessments and, in particular, what they felt were the important elements of the management options. These comments were all carefully noted and recorded, and I summed up the discussion as it progressed. 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.
The first point of agreement was that the meanders are the most important aspect of the Cuckmere, and that any solution should therefore retain or enhance them. Then, those present agreed that while Option D (maintaining the existing defences) scored the highest, it might not be sustainable beyond the short term. There was considerable interest in reactivating the meanders but also a need for more information and understanding of how this might be achieved. And so the meeting concluded that the existing defences should be maintained at least in the short term while the option for reactivating the meanders was further investigated and developed.
Crucially, the meeting was also of the view that the community should now take the lead in moving this forward and many have already signed up to be part of the new “Friends of Cuckmere” grouping.
This consultation exercise has not cost anywhere near £1 million. The Pathfinder project, which has been fully funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), has cost £250,000. Most of this has been spent on significant new research and modelling in order to help the community reach this crucial decision about the Cuckmere from a fully informed basis – money which we believe has been well spent.
East Sussex County Council