Key to protecting cliffs is maintaining the beach

MADAM - I was disappointed to hear that the report on Pennington Point found no need for emergency protection.

MADAM - I was disappointed to hear that the report on Pennington Point found no need for emergency protection. I have respect for the engineers who carried out the survey, and I am confident that they produced an appropriate answer to the question they were set. I have to conclude, therefore, that they were asked the wrong question.

I do not believe that this is a short-term problem. The cliffs will continue to provide protection for some years and the only structure actually at risk is Alma bridge which, for all its importance, cannot justify the expenditure of millions of pounds of taxpayers money. The more fundamental issue is that, eventually, the cliffs will retreat to a point where major protection works will be required for Eastern Town, particularly with anticipated sea level rise in the future. That time can be delayed, substantially, by supporting the natural protection provided by Salcombe Hill cliffs.

I support the view that major engineering works are not appropriate for this site. What is required is to slow down the retreat of the cliffs by maintaining the function carried out by the beach until it was swept away in 2007. One of the reasons for the loss of the beach is surely that material is not replacing it. Several cubic metres of beach material are washed down the River Sid every winter, but before they can reach the beach, the Environment Agency intervenes to remove it, so as to prevent river flooding. Of course, the sensible place to deposit the dredgings would be on the beach, but the agency does not appear to recognise the connection between the material in the river and that on the beach. In conclusion, the solution seems to me to lie in an Environment Agency guide to best practice in the maintenance of beaches, which emphasises the importance of maintaining beach profiles to protect the land behind. In short the beach should be replaced, either by assisting natural processes, or by importing material that will remain.

Brian Golding


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