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Letter: Kicking erosion in the groyne

SIR – The excellent letter from Mr Bowman (Letters, 19th March) drew attention to the cliff erosion at Barton and the need to protect the foot of the cliff.

I would have included the word “urgent”. I recall, as does Mr Bowman, the long sandy beach from Mudeford to Barton in the 1940s and 1950s. The sand dunes and the lagoon beyond Highcliffe Castle and particularly the sand bar which appeared some 10 metres off shore around low water which made bathing at Highcliffe such fun for a child. All now gone.

The reason, I suggest, is the Hengistbury groyne built in 1938 which interrupted the long shore drift of sand from west to east around Bournemouth and Christchurch bays. If in doubt go to Hengistbury head and look at the accumulation of sand along Southbourne and Boscombe beaches and the lack of sand to the east of the groyne.

Cliff erosion at Barton (picture: Mark Janicki)
Cliff erosion at Barton (picture: Mark Janicki)

After the abolition of Lymington Borough Council in the 1970s and its replacement by New Forest District Council, cliff erosion at Barton appears to have increased. Mr Bowman points out that Lymington council’s policy of draining the inland water flow with drains and sheeting sunk into the cliff was not successful. But at least the Lymington council tried. They kept a digger permanently on the cliffs to keep all the paths and four beach accesses open.

Since NFDC have taken over, other than putting up notices and restricting public access and now threatening to remove the toilets, little has been done. Erosion, particularly at Becton Bunny and to the west of the shops, has increased.

Looking at a copy of Poole and Christchurch Bays SMP2 Report V4 it is forecast that as no active intervention is proposed, Barton will lose one property over the cliffs within the next 15-20 years, seven properties within 45-50 years and 316 within 50-100 years.

Long before those time frames Barton residents will find insurance and mortgages difficult to obtain and property prices will be affected. Now must be the time for Barton residents to press their councillors for action to be taken, as suggested by Mr Bowman, to reinforce the base of the cliffs. This has been done recently at Milford.

The New Milton Neighbourhood plan 2016-36, which asks for residents’ support in the forthcoming vote on 6th May, makes only a passing mention of cliff erosion and its stated policy, NM13 Barton-on-Sea, manages not to mention it at all!

To be fair, the policy is to do with future development but one would have hoped that the preservation of past development would have warranted a mention?

Certainly by 2036 the “wide open cliff top green space” referred to could be very much reduced, if not worse, unless action is taken soon.

Malcolm Mecklenburgh,

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