Bob Brown may, or may not, be correct when he speculates that the long term solution for Seaford beach is the construction of “some sort of offshore barrier”, but he is certainly right to predict it “would not be cheap”! (Express, January 27)
In 1959, the eminent civil engineering firm of Sir William Halcrow & Partners told the authorities: “the only financially realistic alternative to what would ultimately be the virtual abandonment of Seaford is to strive to regain and retain an adequate bank of shingle, well distributed throughout the length of the sea wall”.
They also reported that between 1955 and 1959 some £630,000 had been spent on patching up the sea wall and groynes.
This patching and rebuilding continued until a problem in 1981 led Southern Water Authority, which was by then responsible for the sea defences, to undertake the major study which led to the 1986/87 scheme.
One of the options considered was the construction of offshore breakwaters, parallel to the shoreline, intended to reduce the wave energy reaching the shoreline.
However, this plan was rejected as there was no certain evidence that it would actually work, and it was prohibitively expensive.
The current scheme may be unpopular with some people on aesthetic grounds, but the fact remains that it has worked largely as the engineers predicted it would.
There may have been occasions when the worst of the weather and the tides has thrown shingle, water and detritus onto the Promenade and the road, but there has been no significant flooding, and the town has not had to be “virtually abandoned”.
The twice yearly re-distribution of the shingle was always a key element in the scheme and was included in the cost analysis at the time. It was interesting to see what happened recently when the contractor’s business failed (something beyond the control of the Environment Agency) and the shingle re-distribution work was delayed: despite the setback there was no flooding.
I hold no brief for the EA, but believe that credit should be given where it is due.
In 2013, Seaford Museum at Martello Tower 74, is planning to stage an exhibition highlighting the beach and the success or otherwise of the local sea defences, and some notable local shipwrecks.
In the meantime, visitors can view the film of the construction of the 1986/87 beach works which runs continuously whenever the museum is open.