Cuckmere estuary - reassuring outcome

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I WAS at the Cuckmere Estuary meeting on June 7 too, but my impression was very different from that of Tristram Hodgkinson and Jill Rosser (letters, June 10). I think they are mistaken in their interpretation of what was happening.

To begin with, we were not asked to vote on the different options for the future of the estuary.

Some people at the event thought we should have been asked to do so, and it might have been interesting to see how that would have gone, as a supplementary exercise. But we were repeatedly reminded by ESCC in the run-up to the assessment that we were not voting – we were being invited to score each of the seven options on each of ten criteria. Will it help tourism? Will it help wildlife? And so on.

It was, I think, unfortunate that in the presentation of the results the line graphs showing the performance of each option on each criterion – 70 evaluations in all – were difficult to distinguish. But the tangle of lines in itself showed that there was no runaway favourite option.

In the discussion beforehand, it was explained to us that, if indeed there was a ‘clear winner’, it would be shown by a line graph soaring above all the others. Even though the line graphs as projected on the screen were difficult to read, it was apparent that there was no ‘clear winner’ on that definition.

Again, in the carefully prepared run-up to the event, Andy Robertson of ESCC emphasized that, if there was no clear winner on that basis, he would be looking to see whether a consensus might be identified by examining the scores on individual criteria – and by asking what people most wanted. That turned out to be the preservation of the meanders, which only Option C guarantees.

The lumped scores, shown in the bar chart, showed that it was right to see Options D and C as the two most highly favoured options. As it happens, they represent two contrasting yet complementary ways of looking at the Cuckmere Estuary. Andy Robertson saw a way of giving both groups of people what they want.

Whatever we may think about the different options, I have no doubt that Andy Robertson’s method of adjudicating was not only fair, but bending over backwards to be fair. I think his handling of a very difficult and complex web of issues has been admirable.

The outcome should reassure everybody. Funding permitting, the landscape will be maintained as it is in the short term, while the resumption of the estuary’s long-term tidal processes is carefully examined and planned in detail, to ensure the best possible long-term future for the valley.

Rodney Castleden, Seaford