On May 30th this year the “Express” printed my letter detailing the problems over maintenance of the terminal groyne at Splash Point in Seaford.
In that letter, I pointed out that despite taking responsibility for flood defence along Seaford Bay, the Environment Agency (EA) had refused to contribute any funds for the maintenance of the terminal groyne.
I tried through illustrations of the past stability of the cliff line at this key part of the coastline, to show that this structure was not just a Victorian-era tourist feature but actually protected the undercliff from dangerous erosion over more than 100 years, during which time the cliffs further east have retreated after being undermined by wave action. This same method of protection at shoreline level was later adopted to protect the cliff edge from Peacehaven West towards Brighton.
After storm damage in February, the terminal groyne was closed for some months while Seaford Town Council and Lewes District Council discussed funding repairs. Eventually £20,000 was allocated but initially the EA was asked to contribute a further £10,000. They refused, stating that “the terminal groyne does not act as a flood defence”. Now on inspection at the weekend the end railings, installed to protect the public from the drop at the groyne-edge, are working loose again, and the surfacing is already showing signs of damage from the wave action. That £10,000 the EA refused to pay, could have provided a more robust structure.
Instead the EA over two seminars in October and November spent a great deal of effort trying to convince Seaford residents that a large sum of money they are having to lay out in Newhaven (following flooding there in February) will actually benefit Seaford too. In fact all their measures in Lewes and now in Newhaven are as the result of flooding rather than to prevent a forecast flooding event.
Their view about the near-flooding of Seaford in February was “It didn’t happen, therefore the present system of beach defence works and will go on working” rather than “We nearly had a flooding disaster because the beach was washed away. How do we avoid a disaster in the future?”
Our MP was present at both of these seminars; he has consistently stated that while the local EA staff do their best to protect Seaford residents, there needs to be more long-term thinking about the best way to preserve the integrity of the town from rising tide-levels.
Sadly some other “politicians” in the town, notably a UKIP councillor who stated in these columns some months ago that beach protection was a waste of money as it was “obvious” that a low sandy beach would be far more attractive for tourists, need to remove their own heads from the sand.
We need a robust flood defence for those of us who live in homes below high-tide level; the question is what is the most effective and durable system for this?
Abandoning those measures adopted by our forefathers in favour of motorised sand-castle construction - which is what the present shingle-shifting policy will ultimately amount to - is not what is needed for the short to medium term, let alone the visions of life in the 22nd century offered to us by the EA recently. We need permanent flood barriers - or barriers which will effectively calm the force of the waves before they strike the beach defences.