Can 40,000 tonnes of rock save Hopton beach from further erosion?

Hopton holiday park overlooking the old coastal defences. Bourne Leisure are planning to install new stone groynes along the beach subject to planning.  Picture: James Bass Hopton holiday park overlooking the old coastal defences. Bourne Leisure are planning to install new stone groynes along the beach subject to planning. Picture: James Bass

Lauren Rogers lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
9:16 AM

Around 40,000 tonnes of imported rock could be used to create new sea defences on a Norfolk beach being ravaged by erosion.

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Erosion at Hopton beach. Further north along the coast, sand is piled up at Gorleston. Photo: Mike PageErosion at Hopton beach. Further north along the coast, sand is piled up at Gorleston. Photo: Mike Page

Operators of Hopton Holiday Village put forward proposals to save the beach late last year and while still awaiting a final decision from Great Yarmouth Borough Council planners, they believe the multi-million pound scheme will protect the shoreline for years to come.

Bourne Leisure has spent £3m on emergency defence work this winter - placing 12,000 tonnes of rock at the foot of the cliffs to shore them up, using 20,000 tonnes of earth as backfill and repairing the entire cliff top.

Now the emergency work has finished, the next phase would be ensuring the entire stretch is protected from further erosion.

The proposal with planners is to build 10 rock groynes. The granite defences, 100 metres apart and stretching 10 metres out to sea, would replace the rotting wooden groynes that are “no longer fit for purpose”.

Sea defence work taking place on Hopton beach with the caravans at Hopton Holiday Village perched on the cliffs above in 2013.  Picture: James BassSea defence work taking place on Hopton beach with the caravans at Hopton Holiday Village perched on the cliffs above in 2013. Picture: James Bass

It is hoped these defences would stop sand shifting north to Gorleston - a problem that has caused sections of cliff to collapse and forced some holiday homes to be temporarily moved last year.

Jonathan Stratford, park general manager, said: “The emergency work is complete and the next stage is improving and updating the sea defences.

“They are no longer fit for purpose; they are providing some protection but not a lot.”

Bourne Leisure bosses have publicly blamed the Great Yarmouth outer harbour for speeding up the rate of erosion at Hopton - accusations strenuously denied by Great Yarmouth Port Company (GYPC).

The park owners claim the outer harbour altered tidal flow along the east coast when it was built in 2008, while port bosses claim erosion is a natural occurrence.

Whatever the cause, the metal sheets below the wooden revetments had given way letting the North Sea eat away at the cliff.

Work to shore up damaged sections started last winter and when the December tidal surge hit, another 3-4 metres of the entire cliff top - with the exception of the recently repaired areas - was claimed by the sea.

Earlier this year Dr Phil Barber, a leading independent authority on hydrodynamics and shoreline management, completed a two-year scientific study into why the beach at Hopton had disappeared so rapidly after the past few years.

The report was commissioned by Bourne Leisure.

It claimed there was a connection between the accelerated erosion and the development of the outer harbour at Great Yarmouth - claims denied by port bosses Eastport.

Since the publication of the report, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has decided to amend Great Yarmouth Port Company’s marine licence requiring it to conduct more extensive monitoring reports.

Three of the six signatories to the Outer Harbour Monitoring Agreement (OHMA), Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council and the Environment Agency have decided to appoint an independent expert to advise them on the Barber Report.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council also contributed £200,000 to the emergency works completed in June.

A public inquiry earlier this year refused to allow port bosses permission to apply for a change to the Harbour Revision Order.

An attempt to have the decision overturned in the High Court was also unsuccessful.

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