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Campaign for Coastal Defence

SOS - March 2011

“What’s happening at Medmerry, is that where all the tyres are going?”

  . . .  I was asked recently (some of you may have seen lorries laden with bundles of car tyres heading in that direction).

 There are three engineering projects underway at Medmerry (the area from West Sands holiday park, westward to Bracklesham). All have full planning consent, and in one way or another should help everyone who lives or works in, or visits, Selsey.

 Firstly, Bunn Leisure is raising the land level in what’s called “Toe End”, a relatively small narrow strip of land at the extreme west end of its site. This was badly hit by the coastal flooding a couple of years ago, because it is a sunken area, just behind the beach. The tyres form part of the infill being used to raise the ground here to a more normal level.  The tyres will be completely buried & the area landscaped. This isn’t really a coast defence scheme – it’s a sensible response to alleviate a risk of flooding so that better use can be made of the site.

 Secondly, there are two coastal defence projects at Medmerry. The first is being done by Bunn Leisure, which will be investing some £10m-£15m in protecting the coast between the Windmill and Toe End. In doing so, it will give protection to hundreds of homes in the western part of Selsey, as well as protect the caravan parks (which are so vital to the town’s economy).  This can’t really proceed until the second scheme – the Medmerry Managed Realignment – goes ahead, since both schemes have to link up in order to form a continuous defence.

 The Managed Realignment scheme is taxpayer funded, costing some £12m (or more – the actual figure is a bit opaque). The project is managed by the Environment Agency. Preparatory work has started – surveys to work out how to move any affected wildlife, check ground conditions etc – but real “building” work commences this autumn and the scheme should complete by the end of 2012.

 The “Realignment” involves building new earthwork flood defences inland, then making a hole in the existing beach and letting the sea flood the area, which should turn into salt marsh. The marshes should act as a coast defence, by diffusing the energy of the waves.  They are also required by EU Environmental rules, which would otherwise force the authorities to stop maintaining 212km of sea defences which protect over 25,000 homes & properties in the Southampton/Portsmouth area.

 Due to sea level rise, marshes in front of these defences might be overwhelmed by the sea over time. The EU Habitats Directive demands that “compensatory habitat” is created to offset this potential loss. Without it, the Government would face huge fines for protecting Southampton & Portsmouth.  

 SOS is a member of the Medmerry Stakeholders’ Advisory Group (MStAG), a collective body set up by the Environment Agency consisting of organisations and groups with a stake in the future of the Medmerry area. “Advisory” means it can suggest things, but the Agency doesn’t have to do them. For details see our website, www.saveourselsey.org. 

Our website now has a link to independent videos about Selsey’s coastal defences (http://www.youtube.com/user/coastaldefences) being produced by the Manhood Peninsula Steering Group, as well as the latest updates on SOS activities such as school visits.