Fierce erosion prompts sandbagging on Happisburgh beach

Fierce erosion over the winter has prompted a trial sandbagging scheme to keep a north Norfolk beach open to the public.

Some 200 builders' bags, each containing almost a metre of sand, have been stacked by the sand ramp connecting the new Beach Road car park to Happisburgh beach.

The project had become necessary because of an unusually dramatic fall in the level of the beach, according to Brian Farrow, coastal engineer with North Norfolk District Council (NNDC).

Levels at Happisburgh and the east end of Walcott beach had fallen by 1.5m and Mr Farrow said that he had been getting almost daily phone calls from members of the public saying it was difficult to get to the beach because the toe of the ramp had eroded so badly, creating a drop to the sands below.

He blamed 'coastal squeeze' for the problem, with scouring winter seas taking away sand which was not being naturally replaced because so much of the surrounding north Norfolk coastline was protected.

The same phenomenon had led to a two-metre drop in the level of Overstrand beach several years ago, according to Mr Farrow who expects beach levels to build again over the summer months.

The sandbagging, costing a little less than �2,000 in materials and labour, would reduce the number of times the ramp had to be re-cut because of erosion and he expected that it would therefore ultimately save money. The bags run alongside protective rocks already on the beach.

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The ramp had been installed as a permanent public access point to the beach in the spring of last year but Mr Farrow said they had always known that erosion would mean it had to be re-cut occasionally.

'The bagging is temporary because this winter has seen some of the fiercest erosion we've seen,' said Mr Farrow. 'We promised access and we are doing this because our priority is to make sure the general public can get to the beach.'

Beach Road resident Bryony Nierop-Reading, who chose to stay in her bungalow on the eroding clifftop while neighbours sold up to NNDC which has since demolished their homes, said she was pleased at the move.

She added: 'I think it's really great that the council is investigating the use of soft sea defences. Maybe this is the start of investigating the possibility of using them to protect the crumbling cliffs.'

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