MARINET takes Dredging threat to Parliament

MARINET has enlisted the aid of Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk (and since 14th May 2010 Assistant Whip to the House of Commons) in drawing the attention of DEFRA and the government in general to the now rapidly advancing and escalating threats facing East Anglia due to the many combined aggravating government policies on dredging and its licensing, and the lack of any that could help prevent the degradation. Norman Lamb has taken aboard our concerns by addressing them to Environment Minister Richard Benyon of DEFRA, seeking his response on the many issues that have further escalated and arisen over the past year.

The main expressed concerns of MARINET that we hope will be raised with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, in priority order, are:

  1. The continuing erosion brought about by the past and further dredging of marine aggregate off the East Anglian coastline, with even more now being planned.
  2. The damage to fish spawning beds, habitats and feeding grounds enacted by dredging, seabed stripping and silt smothering resulting from the dredging process. The MFA have recently consulted with the industrial companies, i.e. the dredgers, not with us, with the stakeholders or other environmental concerns, when deciding where protected areas are to be established. The dredgers will oppose Marine Protected Areas where they wish to dredge because they target those holding course sand and gravel, deposits, this aggregate producing concrete of the best quality and value. Unfortunately, these are the very areas where the fish spawn as well as feed and shelter. These are utterly destroyed when the ‘topsoil’ is removed, never to recover. It is essential that such vital spawning areas remain undamaged in the hope of re-establishing the declining fish stock of our seas.
  3. The implementation of the Shoreline Management Plan(s) now coming into force that will aid and abet the loss of much housing, agricultural land, infrastructure, seaside businesses and threaten local communities, this is a time of increasing austerity and growing food shortages. Large sections of our coastline are now being abandoned to the sea that were once protected under the (mis)Managed Retreat Policy which amazingly and incredulously claims that by abandonment to the sea the coastline will become stabilised.
  4. The further threat of escalation of damage from flooding and marine breakthrough that will be brought about by a yet further 25% cut in sea defences.
  5. The absence of meaningful and evidencing data and research in EIA ‘s that would have clearly identified the erosion and general damage created by offshore dredging.
  6. MFA, DEFRA, AODA and BMAPAs combined rejection of the findings of international research bodies long proving the link(s) between offshore dredging and coastal erosion.
  7. The elevated oil pollution threat due to the governments recent repeal of the bill that prevented ship-to-ship oil transfer at sea.
  8. The governments recent closure of the coastguard centres around the East Anglian coast at a time of increasing hazard.
  9. The removal of flood warning sirens around the most vulnerable parts of the East Anglian coast.
    Arising from the these are many secondary effects, such as:
  10. Salination of Land, Broads and Rivers. We now face an enhanced risk of widespread sea flooding and inundation in the Horsey/Brograve and Acle to Great Yarmouth areas, where, as well as rural villages, a sea surge breakthrough could destroy production from a huge acreage of vital arable farmland and many years due to salination. Map showing area of risk in Norfolk

    Furthermore, with rising sea levels and lowering river flows we are seeing an increase of saline water flowing up river and into the Broadland system, so soon Farmers may no longer be able to rely upon these sources for irrigation and/or for agricultural water supplies in the future. Much of the area depends upon riverine extraction in our increasingly dry Springs and Summers as droughts come about with climatic change. Thus the real loss of arable land yield could be far greater than just that stripped by erosion alone. Map showing rivers at risk of flooding

    In the long term much of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Northants and Lincolnshire could be under the sea. Map showing parts of Norfolk, Cambs & Lincs under water

  11. Coastal Waste Toxic Tips.
    The increasing loss of our land due to erosion will undoubtedly expose and wash out to sea from the shoreline a number of historic coastal waste tips. One such of particular threat is the unlined toxic waste tip at Gisleham Quarry, where a large amount of highly poisonous liquid was placed, including Mercury. What is even worse it also holds a large quantity of Chlorpiriphos, a deadly nerve toxin deposited by Cleanaway in the early 1970’s.
    This tip, close to the sea at Pakefield near Lowestoft, has already leached underground several hundred meters eastward to the sea. In 1989 it was estimated by Suffolk County Council assistant surveyor Colin Palmer that it would meet the ever nearing sea within 20 — 30 years.e.g. 2009 — 2019. Waveney District Council had proposed a contingency plan to safeguard the public by wiring off 8 miles of the coastline. (See at the item ‘Timebomb Underground’ from Surveyor of 14th December 1989 and my original article on this potential hazard by visiting ).
    Coincidentally (?) in the past three years seven dogs have died during or immediately following being taken for a walk along Pakefield Beach. Their symptoms were highly characteristic of acetylcholine disruption considered to be brought about by organophosphate poisoning, There are other similar ‘Special Waste’ tips in Suffolk, many more still in Essex. It is thus essential that erosion is curtailed where such threats exist.
  12. Nuclear Sites. Sizewell Beach upon which are sited the existing and now government promoted forthcoming nuclear reactors, is protected by the Sizewell Bank. Although neighbouring beaches and cliffs either side of Sizewell are eroding rapidly, Sizewell itself has up to now been fairly stable, thanks only to the interchange of beach material with the northern offshore sandbank which also protects the Sizewell ‘A’ and ‘B’ nuclear power plants from erosion and attack by wave action. Despite grave concern expressed in our opposition to granting a licence to dredge there by MARINET, aware locals and top world Coastal Geomorphologist Professor John Pethick, who recognise that the sand supply source to the shoreline comes from the Sizewell Bank, permission was given to dredge offshore sand and gravel aggregate. This is now ongoing, and a further application for further dredging has since been allowed. Professor Pethick stated “We must not dredge this bank, otherwise it will increase the erosion, the very reverse of what is required.”

There exist other threats, but those given above should suffice to hopefully stimulate some consideration into government policies and a re-think of marine and coastal issues. Some of these are brought about by government inaction, and some by ongoing actions. The entire policy of the exploitation of our sea and seabed and the means by which it is licensed is in need of a vital review, and has been ever since the government proposed a ban on marine aggregate dredging due to its proven coastal erosion impact over 100 years ago.

If members are able to lobby there own constituency MP’s on this now serious issue, the resulting awareness and concern shown from numerous parliamentary constituencies may provoke debate and intervention, leading to a re-appraisal of the current system that permits and promotes the increasing hazard. We already have interest from several East Anglian MP’s.

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