Crunch talks have taken place to discuss whether part of Lowestoft’s erosion-hit beach should be closed off over the peak summer season, it emerged this week.

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Council officers and engineers are now facing a race against time to open a section of the town’s award-winning south beach after months of battering by bad weather.

With the beach regarded as the “jewel in the crown” of the town’s multi-million pound seaside tourism industry, Waveney District Council has been left with a stark choice:

■ Close the beach all summer between the South Pier and Parade Road South to make vital improvements for the long-term;

■ Or keep sections closed while they work through to Easter and then allow the beach to open fully for the peak season before resuming in the autumn.

Senior engineers from the council’s coastal management team met with contractors on Wednesday and yesterday as they visited and assessed key erosion spots, including the Lowestoft south beach promenade opposite Royal Green, the south beach seawall, groynes and shoreline, and Tibbenham’s Score steps in Corton.

With the findings yet to be disclosed, David Ritchie, Waveney’s cabinet member for planning and coastal management, confirmed that the meetings had been held “to consider what work needs to be done in three separate locations; how much it would cost and how long it would take to complete”.

“The coastlines in and around Lowestoft have suffered hugely both from erosion issues and the terrible battering we received from the December storms and tidal surge. However, timescales will undoubtedly be affected by the huge pressures on engineers to address UK-wide issues following months of damage to our coastlines,” Mr Ritchie said. “Naturally, we are entirely focused on minimising any disruption to the holiday season and thankfully the overall area affected is relatively small.

“However it is vital that work is undertaken now, even if only to deliver a temporary solution. This will allow us to create the environment to deliver permanent long-term solutions for the benefit of the town, the tourism industry and all our communities.”

Last October, the council temporarily closed the south beach amid public safety concerns, following storms and severe weather which caused structural damage.

At the time, it said the ramp at Children’s Corner, which was at an “imminent risk of collapse,” and the beach nearby would be closed to public access for “several months” but concerns were also expressed over hazards – including old groynes – on parts of the shoreline between Royal Green and Parade Road South.

With coastal defences badly exposed and damage caused to the sea wall, contractors started the latest phase of demolition work along the seafront in January.

A council spokesman said at the time: “Beach scouring has led to continuing deterioration of the condition of the ramp near the East Point Pavilion, leading to increased concerns for public safety. Partial demolition has begun to make the structure safe.” The council also said that 20pc of the beach frontage was affected by the scouring.

Later this month, the next phase of works along the seafront – to repair the South Lowestoft prom and copings opposite Royal Green – is due to start.

Mr Ritchie said yesterday: “We’ve been in regular contact with local communities for some time, staging regular meetings and providing updates regarding proposals. We will, of course, be consulting with local communities and businesses on our proposals for all locations.

“Depending on the proposals that our engineers provide, we will then be able to decide what we can achieve and how we can phase the operations to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.”

He said the council expected the work to repair the south Lowestoft prom and copings opposite Royal Green to get under way later this month and will continue through March and into April.

“We will also be discussing the final options report for Lowestoft south beach management proposals and to prepare cost estimates for potential works that will determine what can be achieved,” he added.

However, this was “a considerable project” which was likely to require planning permission and other consents.

“This in itself would take around eight to 10 weeks and the work itself will probably take place over two months,” Mr Ritchie added. “The decision we will need to make is based around the benefits and risks of proceeding with work thorough June/July or to defer this until the autumn.

“The third topic for discussion centres around proposals and cost estimates for works necessary to reopen Tibbenhams Score steps at Corton. If this work requires planning consent, as is likely, then the target date for reopening of March 31 may be moved back.”

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