Extra sand plan to protect villages around Bacton Gas Terminal would buy time
- Credit: Archant
A plan to pile sand on the beach to protect communities around the Bacton Gas Terminal from the sea's force would buy time, according to North Norfolk District Council.
The terminal, which handles more than one third of the country's natural gas, plans to strengthen its defences so that they are secure for the next half century.
The measures follow the storm surge of December 2013 when a ramp at the terminal and a nearby cliff were damaged.
The surge wreaked havoc on the neighbouring villages of Walcott and Bacton.
For the past 11 months a joint working group - including terminal, district council and Environment Agency representatives - has been discussing a solution which would also benefit the surrounding communities.
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A statement released by the group said the idea would involve placing sand on the coast and using natural coastal processes to replenish the beaches further down from the terminal.
It added: 'The concept is based upon the new sand raising the level of the beach, which has on average been falling for many years, in order to increase the effectiveness and life of the existing sea defences.'
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A district council spokesman said: 'The scheme for Bacton Gas Terminal would look to secure the nationally-important piece of infrastructure for 50 years.
'The wider community scheme is scalable, depending on funding available and consideration of environmental factors. As such, at this time, the scheme is looking to buy time to enable longer-term coastal management options to be considered.'
The sand idea has been welcomed by leading coastal erosion campaigner Malcolm Kerby.
Mr Kerby, who led the high-profile campaign to protect his home village of Happisburgh, said: 'Sandscaping, as they call it, is definitely 'a goer'.
'I've been pushing for this to happen for several years. I've been saying: 'Can't we just try it? There's nothing else on the table' so I'm delighted to hear this news.
'It could be the best thing that's happened south of Bacton for many years.'
The idea was used in Holland where he had seen its effects when he went on a fact-finding visit with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb about eight years ago.
Sand was dropped at the 'head of the natural system' - the point where longshore drift began in a particular direction.
Tides and winds then carried it to beaches along the direction of drift, helping replenish them. In turn, higher beach levels protected vulnerable communities from the full force of the waves' battering.
A terminal spokesman said they were committed to protecting the gas site from further coastal erosion and to working with other parties on a joint scheme, adding: 'Our clear priority is to maintain production at the terminal and we hope that the funding gap for the additional village protection can be bridged.'
District council leader Tom FitzPatrick is writing to the government asking for cash towards the scheme.