Letter: Sea defences - action needed

IT was an interesting coincidence that both Peter Bailey’s Memory Lane piece and the news item “Project to tackle climate change” appeared in the January 13 edition. For many years after it was built, engineers blamed the new, extended Newhaven Harbour breakwater for the loss of shingle on the beaches of Seaford Bay.

The statistics seemed to support that idea and were quite alarming: it was reported that within three years of the completion of the work, 80,000 cubic yards of shingle had built up on the western side of the new harbour arm; that the beach level between the Buckle Inn and the Martello Tower dropped 10 feet between 1900 and 1945 and in the same period the low water mark had progressed 200 feet inshore! “Shingle robbed from Seaford Bay” could well have been a local headline.

In the 1950s the engineers were more circumspect, and while acknowledging the impact of the construction of the harbour arms had on shingle levels in Seaford Bay, they recognised that another important factor had been that the Victorian engineers and developers had built Seaford’s sea wall and promenade in the wrong place and of the wrong materials.

The subsequent construction of Brighton Marina also had an adverse impact.

Although it is not universally popular, there can be no doubt that the massive sea defence work which took place in 1986/87, and the subsequent annual recharging of the shingle has saved large swathes of modern Seaford, including the railway line, from inundation.

But this is not just history: expert evidence presented to the 2010/2011 enquiry into the future of the Cuckmere Haven demonstrated the complexity of the factors which influence our coastline, both locally and regionally.

Hopefully, the development of the “Coastal Communities 2150” project will provide an innovative opportunity to better understand exactly what is happening at sea and to our coastline.

It is a chance we cannot afford to ignore, if only for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

David Swaysland, Seaford