£18m-£19m sandscaping project off Norfolk coast a ‘waste of money’, claim critics

Sandscaping preparations near Bacton Gas Terminal, while holidaymakers enjoy the beach. Pictures: M

Sandscaping preparations near Bacton Gas Terminal, while holidaymakers enjoy the beach. Pictures: Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

Critics of an £18m-£19m sandscaping project off the Norfolk coast say it is a 'waste of money'.

Preparation machinery for sandscaping project. Pictures: Maurice Gray

Preparation machinery for sandscaping project. Pictures: Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk District Council, in association with the Bacton Gas Terminal, is planning a UK Multi partner project to spray 1.8 million cubic metres of sand, placed and engineered, onto three beaches (Bacton Refinery Beach/Bacton Beach/Walcott Beach.

This is designed to provide robust protection to the terminal for approximately 20 years and extending the life of the village flood defences at a price of between £18 million and £19 million.

But businesses have expressed concerns and anger due to the lack of information up until now and plans to start spraying in July lasting six to eight weeks, depending on the weather, at a time when holidaymakers usually flock to the area.

Although many people supported the project and are still very optimistic about its effectiveness, critics have called the proceedings a waste of money and time because they say, high tides will wash the sand away. The scheme called 'Sandmotor', has, they say, been successful in the Netherlands, built in 2011.

View from holiday camp at Bacton. Pictures: Maurice Gray

View from holiday camp at Bacton. Pictures: Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

The Dutch company states, "With a new dry beach, above mean high water, there will be a risk of windblown sand, particularly in the first 18 months, which will be monitored".

Also, "They expect there will be additional benefits for tourism and recreation, and offer the projects for other areas in the UK".

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Bell The Biker -Founder of Facebook Group (Walcott Bacton and Happisburgh Community Flood Support and Help Group) issued the following statement: "I am looking forward to seeing the completion of the sandscaping and I'm hopeful that it works well, yet, myself and many others have our doubts about its longevity.

"The responses on my 'Facebook Help group WBH' are mostly very positive yet a lack of current information is causing a lot of speculation. Not all positive. It would be helpful if this was addressed sooner than later.

"It seems that we will have a lot of disruption to our lives to cope with this summer.

"But I remember when they did Sea Palling in winter, with the sad loss of life and equipment and no one would want to see a repeat of that. "One summer of disruption is a small price to pay in comparison to protecting our homes safely, from the damage and destruction caused by flooding in the past."

Critics are saying the project will not last as with strong winds and certain tides the sand will no longer be on the beaches designated, but probably many miles down the coast.

Most of the critics have suggested offshore 'reefs' would be cheaper and more effective.

The Walcott Emergency Volunteer Association (WEVA) (Flood Wardens) is not convinced and issued the following statement last year: "Anybody who daily goes down to the beach and watches the sea will know what our tides are like. One day the sand will be level with the apron, the next day, after a strong tide, the sand has gone and there's a 14ft drop to the beach.

"With nothing to hold the sand in place this project is a waste of money. A better solution would be to raise money for reefs (as done at Sea Palling), from Mundesley point to Sea Palling which would protect this coastline for many years."

Mike Page, who has studied the Norfolk coast for 60 years, has stated that 'sandscaping' will not work.

He said: "This was tried on the Norfolk Coast, at Horsey, in March 2004 and all of the pumped sand had disappeared by 2006 (just two years). "More sand pumping was carried out in November 2008 at Waxham, just south of the Sea Palling reefs, and again all of the sand had disappeared by 2010.

"Whoever forecast a 25-year life for the 'Bacton Scheme' is having a pipe dream.

"Sand pumping may give Bacton three years' protection, but certainly no more.

"Much more protection would be afforded by having two or three 'fishtail groynes' which would work well on this coast and, no extra sand would be required".