A bid to dredge 40 million tonnes off the coast of Great Yarmouth could intensify a 'ruinous cycle' of erosion, objectors fear.

Eastern Daily Press: Sea defence work taking place on Hopton beach. Picture: James BassSea defence work taking place on Hopton beach. Picture: James Bass (Image: (C) Archant Norfolk 2013)

Marine firm Hanson Aggregates has applied for a licence to dredge the vast quantity off the sea bed near to the borough.

And it has sparked a series of objections including one from Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who has written to licence-granting authority the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Coastal pressure groups have also lodged objections, fearing the sheer volume of aggregate excavated over a 'short time' would devastate the coast.

Earlier this year Hemsby Lifeboat had to abandon its station after erosion, remains of a hotel last seen around the second world war were exposed at Caister and £1m was spent on work to shore up Hopton cliffs after a collapse.

Mr Lewis said he has 'clear' objections to the application from the Southampton-based company, which was appeared as a public notice on June 14.

It seeks permission to extract 39.25 tonnes of aggregate over a period of 15 years off the Yarmouth coast.

'The application itself notes that such work could impact on tidal currents and on sediment flux,' wrote Mr Lewis. 'Coastal erosion is currently an acute problem across the eastern sea board and is particularly devastating for the coastal communities within my constituency.

'The natural cycle of sediment flux has already been disrupted and unusual weather events have resulted in massive damage to the beaches of Hemsby, Hopton and Winterton.'

He said the damage has hurt the local economy and is 'literally threatening' the viability of local communities.

'As such, I cannot support activities which could further intensify this ruinous cycle,' he added.

And he has called on the MMO to reject the application so 'equilibrium can be returned' to our coastline.

He concluded: 'I do not feel that five years' review are a sufficient safeguard to ensure proper scrutiny of the impact of dredging on the beautiful and precious coastline of the historic communities within the borough of Great Yarmouth.'

Chris Hogg, chairman of Scratby and California Environment Group, told the Mercury there has always been concern around dredging off the Norfolk coast.

But the latest application would take things to another level.

'It's the first time we've seen an application of this scale,' he said. 'It's the volume over such a short period of time.'

The group has also written to the MMO with its objections.

In a letter on behalf of the group, Mr Hogg wrote: 'This dredging activity is no longer sustainable or justifiable in view of its potential consequences.'

He urged MMO bosses to increase the 'intensity and transparency' of monitoring the effects of dredging.

'To ensure trust in the transparency of the monitoring regime we strongly recommend that it be undertaken by a truly independent organisation with absolutely no connection, however tenuous, past or present with applicant company or any of its subsidiaries,' he added.

A spokesperson for the Marine Management Organisation said: 'Each dredge application is considered carefully. Along with our advisers, the MMO scrutinises every application and all the supporting documents to ensure that no unacceptable impacts will arise as a result of permitted dredging operations.

'Aggregate dredging is subjected to a programme of monitoring throughout the lifetime of the licence, with the option to review the frequency after five years if necessary. Should any unacceptable environmental impacts be identified, we have the powers to vary the terms of the licence, suspend the licence while further information is being gathered or in severe cases revoke the licence.

'There are rigorous requirements to assess any impacts in all aggregate dredging applications, from initial modelling and assessments of environmental impact to routine monitoring. Current licensing regimes for the aggregate dredging industry exist to protect the marine environment and marine users from detrimental effects and must be adhered to in all cases. Any application must contain sufficient data on which to base an informed decision, and a number of studies including an Environmental Impact Assessment and Coastal Impact Study are normally undertaken to support the dredging application.

'The Coastal Impact Studies are carried out on a 'worst case scenario', and include information on wave modelling, sediment transport and an assessment of the possibility of adverse effects on the coastline. Until this information is provided, consent cannot be granted.

'Although no confirmed link has been found between dredging and coastal erosion, it is still a consideration in every relevant application.'