Backing for sea defences

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The rock revetment at Rockmead Road when it was being created, with the tip of the original Sea Road berm on the far right

The Fairlight Preservation Trust (FPT) has given a talk on the need to have local funding in place, particularly those with a focus on sea defences. The meeting, held on May 30 in the Fairlight parish assembly hall, addressed issues around funding from parish councils, as part of the process of seeking government funds to combat coastal erosion and landslip.

Those attending clearly backed a resolution from the parish council to make a substantial contribution to the partnership funding required when seeking funds for coastal protection from the Environment Agency (EA). This is an important step towards securing funds for work needed to fill the gap between the two rock revetments already in place.

It had been hoped that a substantial shingle beach would form in this area to protect the cliffs and, while a shingle bank does form, it is quickly washed away leaving the clay cliffs open to attack from the sea twice a day. As part of the earlier Rockmead Road coastal defence project, a compressor house was constructed to work the groundwater pumps.

Unfortunately, the compressor house is situated in the area under attack from the sea and is now at risk. If nothing is done to protect the house it will be lost and the pumps will stop. That would cause the landslip problem to start again and properties at risk before the Rockmead Road project took effect will again be at risk.

Another problem concerns the area between two coastal barriers, or berms, that were put in place as part of earlier coastal defence works. As the sea is attacking the area between the two defensive berms, properties between Rockmead Road and Cliffway are also at risk. Coastal engineers have suggested that in a very short time the sea will cut off the road to Sea Road West and in the long term continue to eat away at this area and destroy many more properties. It is also thought that the sea getting behind the Sea Road berm would again undermine the cliffs in that area.

It was explained that at a meeting in February 2014 with Tony Leonard, Executive Director of Business Operations for Rother District Council -the coast protection authority for the Fairlight area -it was agreed that the FPT with the help of local residents Ruth and Leslie Kosmin, could put together a submission to the Environment Agency (EA). This submission was for an allocation of funding to protect the compressor house and the area at risk between the two berms.

Unfortunately the FPT was given just ten days to put the submission together so the first task was to apply for an extension to the deadline for submissions. Ruth achieved this with help from local MP Amber Rudd, and the deadline was extended by an extra week. The second task required the help of a coastal engineering company. Fortunately a nearby council in Kent had kept its engineering division in Canterbury operational. The company, East Kent Engineering Partnership (EKEP), was aware of the problems in Fairlight and able to visit the site very quickly. EKEP provided valuable information on what needed to be done and how to fill out the 360-segment spread sheet to be sent to the EA.

EKEP’s opinion is that if nothing is done to arrest the attacks from the sea then, within five years, nine properties and the compressor house could be lost and it would be impossible to access Sea Road West. The loss of the compressor house would mean that all the properties that were protected when the Rockmead Road project was put in place would once again be at risk and, over a 100-year period, more than 100 properties could be lost.

At the moment government policy is that national coastal defence work must be supported by an element of local funding. The funding can be from local parish councils, district councils or county councils or from local residents. As the county and district council have limited funds available it was therefore crucial to the application for government funds that Fairlight parish council backed this bid, which thankfully it did.

Paul Capps is secretary of the Fairlight Preservation Trust