NEW FOREST District Council has been forced to consider borrowing thousands of pounds to unlock government funding for schemes to fight crumbling cliffs and rising flood risks.
The cash is needed for projects to tackle problems facing households along miles of coastline between Barton and Lymington, including Milford and Hurst Spit.
As reported in the A&T, the issue has been highlighted recently with owners at nearby Hordle Cliff being told to remove their beach huts, and sections of footpath near Barton dropping into the sea.
The situation was laid out in a report to members of NFDC’s environment overview and scrutiny panel, which said there was now less taxpayers’ cash available for mitigation measures.
Because the New Forest’s projects are also judged to have a high cost in relation to the number of homes protected, they will have to secure a greater proportion in “partnership funding”.
The three local priorities include a single package to reduce coastal flood risk between Milford and Lymington, including the embankment, and management of Hurst Spit which has been declining since the last major recharge of shingle in 1997.
The report said: “As a result the barrier beach is more vulnerable to damage caused by extreme storm events.
“The Environment Agency flood embankment between Milford and Lymington is dependent on Hurst Spit for wave sheltering and provides protection to a number of houses, but is declining in condition.”
The second scheme is at Barton (pictured) to build on a £300,000 research programme in 2012/13 to investigate the stability of the cliffs and options to stall the erosion.
The third was specifically for Milford seafront to tackle coastal flooding and erosion.
The cost of the operations will be calculated later once NFDC better understands how much money would be available and on what terms any borrowing would be.
The report said: “These projects all have a relatively low benefit to cost ratio, and are not eligible for full government funding.
“In order to prepare an approved business case for these projects and bridge the ‘funding gap’, it will be vital to secure additional investment contributions towards the cost of the project.
“It is clear that in order to be able to progress the NFDC schemes, some form of investment will be required.
“However, until investment plans are developed and refined it is not possible to put a figure on the level of potential borrowing or partnership funding that will be required.”
The report also said that by attracting outside investment, NFDC could show support for its plans and have a better chance of gaining government support.