Could giant nets help slow erosion at Hunstanton cliffs?

Hunstanton cliffs and lighthouse from the air. Picture: Mike Page Hunstanton cliffs and lighthouse from the air. Picture: Mike Page

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
9:50 AM

Giant netting could be placed along the base of Hunstanton cliffs - to protect the resort’s iconic lighthouse.

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But experts say while the £800,000 scheme could help slow the rate at which the famous candy cliffs are eroding, it will not be enough to save it indefinitely.

The idea is included in the Environment Agency’s proposals for managing the coast line between Hunny and Wolferton Creek, which have gone out to public consultation.

Officials also propose to replace the towns main sea defences, along the North and South proms, when they reach the end of their expected life span, in 15 to 20 years’ time.

The shingle bank between Hunstanton South Beach and Wolferton, which protects thousands of caravans and holiday homes, will also be maintained.

The EA’s draft coastal management plan, which went on display at Hunstanton Town Hall last night, warns that the cliffs are eroding at the rate of around a foot a year.

Consultant engineer Jaap Flikweert said: “The cliffs have never been defended, there’s never been any measure to prevent erosion. We know they’re eroding by about a foot a year.

“There’s the lighthouse and the cliff top green, which are important parts of Hunstanton. The government isn’t going to pay for any of this, it won’t get the funding.

“The question is, is there anything we can do which meets the requirements of the geological designation.”

Mr Flikweert said the cliffs were designated an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) because ongoing erosion had revealed different layers of rock.

He said netting placed along a 250m section including the lighthouse and St Edmund’s Chapel ruins would retain material which fell from the cliffs at their base, forming a buffer against storms and high tides.

“What you do is you use these blocks that have come off the cliffs and find a way to contain them to stop the waves eating into the cliff,” he said.

“It’s affordable and if it doesn’t work, it’s the easiest to remove. It’s a complicated situation that doesn’t have an easy solution.”

The EA and West Norfolk council are hosting two further exhibitions at Heacham Public Hall on Monday, August 4 and Snettisham Memorial Hall on Wednesday, August 6 (2 - 7pm).

Julie Foley, the EA’s area manager, said: “Defences were severely tested during the December East Coast Tidal Surge. We must plan now for the future protection of this coastline from the effects of flooding and coastal erosion in a changing climate.”

Brian Long, West Norfolk council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “It is vital that people take the opportunity to respond to this consultation. I would urge people to pop along to one of the drop in sessions or to view the document online and leave their comments.”

To see the proposals, click here.

It can also be viewed at the EA’s office at Wisbech Road, King’s Lynn, or West Norfolk council’s offices in Chapel Street, Lynn and Valentine Road, Hunstanton.

Consultation runs until September 8

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