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Coastal communities may not get flood defences, New Forest District Council cabinet member Cllr Steve Davies concedes

MORE funding will have to be found if projects to protect the local coastline are to go ahead, civic chiefs have warned.

The message comes amid the unveiling of a new 100-year sea defence plan in partnership between New Forest District Council and neighbouring BCP Council.

The proposal concedes some areas will not be actively defended, such as the natural coastline between Barton golf course and Hordle Cliffs.

The completed work at Milford sea wall
The completed work at Milford sea wall

Councils will also have to work with private landowners to identify “cost-effective actions” to protect coastal communities.

Cllr Steve Davies, NFDC cabinet member for environment and coastal services, said: “Unfortunately, despite everything that can be done, there will always be some locations where it is not possible or appropriate to defend against flooding and erosion or maintain existing defences.

“In these cases, the strategy will help identify the communities who may need time and support to adapt to future change.”

Produced with the help of the Environment Agency, the strategy is to manage the risk of flooding and erosion between Hengistbury Head Long Groyne and Hurst Spit.

It splits the coastal frontage into five areas: Mudeford Sandbank, Christchurch Harbour, Christchurch beaches and cliffs, Naish Cliff and Barton and Hordle Cliffs and Milford.

The plan suggests a mix of “hold the line” and “managed realignment” along much of the stretch.

Cllr Davies urged people to contribute, such as with photos to help document changes in coastal features over time.

He added: “All feedback received will be used to identify where, when and broadly what type of works are needed and can realistically be delivered to protect this coastline from tidal flooding and erosion.”

Cllr Mark Anderson, BCP Council’s cabinet member for environment, cleansing and waste, hoped the strategy would help develop financially viable business cases and secure funding for coastal defence works.

Earlcoate carried out the project
Earlcoate carried out the project

It is anticipated both councils will face increasing costs in the years to come with managing their coastlines.

Last year NFDC had to make emergency work to repair Milford sea wall which, according to a report to a cabinet meeting, will likely deliver a £525,000 bill to the authority.

Future coastal projects will only happen if central government steps in to help the authority, warned Cllr Jeremy Heron, cabinet member for finance.

“Financially this council cannot afford to take on the burden of protecting its coast. We must get support from elsewhere if we are going to continue supporting this,” he said.

As reported in the A&T, NFDC was forced to act in August 2020 after a consultants’ report warned around 50 properties, including the Grade II listed White House, were at “imminent risk” if nothing was done to a 270-metre section of wall near Paddy’s Gap at Milford.

The work was hit when bad weather caused a 38-metre section of the sea wall to fail, resulting in the erosion of a seven-metre section of cliffs and escalating the project costs by £325,000.

It eventually cost £1.9m in total, NFDC having underwritten the work using its reserves.

NFDC secured £600,000 funding from the Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, and has submitted a business case asking for another £725,000 of help from the Environment Agency – which has not yet decided how much it will give.

The consultation ends on 15th August and features an interactive map. It is anticipated the final strategy will be adopted by the summer of 2023. Visit www.twobays.net

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