Letter: Barrier in sea is the answer

In reply to the letter by David Swaysland “Sea Defences:Action Needed” in the Sussex Express January 20, I agree that action is required now to provide a more durable sea defence at Seaford.

In one respect Mr Swaysland is in error though, where he states that there has been a “subsequent annual recharging of the shingle” since the original works in 1986/87. To my knowledge, there have been only on two occasions in September 2009/10 fresh introduction of shingle from the Owers Bank in the Channel. Rather than being recharged every year, the shingle has been regularly redistributed back into the centre part of the beach from the west and east sides where it is washed by wave action.

What is more important to consider is that the shingle beach was given a life of about 10 years when first laid down, although due to the effects of other work like Brighton Marina, the loss from longshore drift was less than anticipated. Recharging of the beach should be necessary also to counteract the phenomenon known as “abrasion” where the shingle is gradualy reduced to coarse sand by rubbing against itself, and also by being pushed against the promenade. That process has seemingly been overlooked by the Environment Agency recently, though it was planned for in the original beach scheme, where recharging of the beach was planned for before 2000.

At recent meetings between Seaford Town Council and the EA to discuss the future of the beach (the last meeting being held in May 2011). It was stressed by the EA that the quantity of material on the beach had not seriously diminished, hence further recharging was not justified nor budgeted for.

However, from recent storms, it is now clear that in certain areas the beach has rapidly degraded to coarse sand, and as any holidaymaking child can demonstrate, building sea defences with sand is useless against strong tidal action, particularly where there is a promenade behind to “bounce back” the wave action.

Sand is taken out in suspension and deposited out in the bay where by reducing the depth of the existing water it increases the wave-height, in effect making the situation more dangerous for the seafront.

The use by the EA of ever-heavier road vehicles to reposition the shingle every year, has also aggravated the reduction of the shingle into sand by repeatedly crushing the surface layer.

The Seaford Community Partnership beach group, of which I am a member, has actively promoted a longer-term approach to the management of Seaford Bay, by proposing some type of offshore barrier.

Such a barrier would not be cheap but, by creating a lagoon over part of the bay, it would in my view diminish the erosion of the existing sea defence, and also create a leisure facility by creation of sheltered water for swimming, fishing and boating, among other activities.

That must be better for Seaford than the prospect of ever more costly and disruptive exercises in repositioning what is now demonstrably a worn-out sea defence.

Bob Brown,