Beach Erosion at Pagham, West Sussex

The concern on beach erosion came to Parliament on 25th October, duly reported by Hansard under ‘Oral Answers to Questions – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Environmental Protection (Home Security) (25th Oct 2012) at theyworkforyou website

Millionaire landowner Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury is Wildlife Minister Under Secretary of State for DEFRA, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. In this capacity he provided oral answers to questions set by Nick Gibb, Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, who asked.

1) “If he will make it his policy to intervene when measures introduced by the Environment Agency or Natural England to enhance the natural environment threaten the safety and security of people’s homes”.

To which Richard Benyon replied:

“There are times when legal requirements to protect the environment could make it more difficult or expensive to protect people’s homes, such as properties at the top of eroding cliffs that are protected for their natural character. However, such cases are rare. If there is a conflict between meeting a requirement to protect the environment and protecting people, there are clauses that allow things to go ahead for imperative reasons of overriding public interest if there are no other solutions.”

Nick Gibb also asked:

2) “I do not know how well my hon. friend knows the West Sussex coast, and the Pagham coast in particular, but over the past few years, a build-up of shingle and sand, known as a spit, has developed at the mouth of the Pagham harbour nature reserve. That spit is causing scouring of the beach through the action of the waves and the seawater trying to escape, and that is eroding the beach by up to several metres a year and beginning to put people’s homes at risk. One solution would be to carve a channel through the spit, but both the Environment Agency and Natural England are resisting that approach. Will the Minister come to Pagham so that I can show him at first hand the problem we are facing?”

Richard Benyon replied:

“I had a premonition that Pagham might be mentioned, and therefore yesterday at some length I consulted Natural England and the Environment Agency. They assured me that there are no environmental reasons why solutions cannot be found on that part of the coast; I know that the coastline is extremely dynamic in that part of the country. I am keen to assist my hon. Friend, and I would gladly make such a visit if that would ensure that local people’s fears were allayed, and so that nothing done by any Government agency will be taken as a measure that puts people’s homes more at risk.

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