Outer harbour beach erosion study under fire

THE owners of the outer harbour could face a bill of millions of pounds to restore Hopton beach if a new survey finds the port is responsible for its disappearance.

It has emerged that, prompted by concerns over the beach, a leading leisure company has spent a six-figure sum investigating the issue itself, with results due hopefully within the next three months.

Carried out by Hopton Holiday Village owners Bourne Leisure, it takes place against a backdrop of widespread fears over beach erosion and its impact on the local economy, as well as an ongoing survey on behalf of harbour owners Great Yarmouth Port Company, by HR Wallingford.

And in a letter, Bourne Leisure highlights fears that HR Wallingford's yearly monitoring reports on the coastline, which report no proof of the port's responsibility for the sand's disappearance, are based on 'old science' and are 'not fit for purpose'.

The Mercury can reveal the letter, from Bourne Leisure director Anton Bednarek, highlights 'grave concerns' over the future of the beach and the studies, concluding: 'In the event that damages are shown to have occurred to Bourne Leisure's business due to the outer harbour then Bourne Leisure would seek redress from the GYPC.'

The letter follows on from widespread reports of the beach vanishing, and a fiery public meeting last year in which HR Wallingford's yearly survey results were labelled by some as 'a whitewash'.

It has also received backing from Brian Potter, chairman of Potter's Leisure Resort, who fears for the future of the area and who said they too would seek redress if the Bourne Leisure survey results warranted it.

Most Read

'We're very supportive of Bourne Leisure and we share their concerns about the erosion of the beach,' he said.

'As a very large employer within the borough we feel, looking long term, if nothing is done about it [the erosion] the current defences will crumble and we feel pretty certain in future times there won't be a holiday area or much else. We had a beach and we no longer have one.'

Ongoing coastal studies regarding the harbour, which was completed in 2008, stretch back to 1998.

Were the outer harbour to be proved responsible for such erosion, under a monitoring agreement signed in 2003 the owners would be obliged to make amends.

The letter from Bourne Leisure highlighting their concerns has been sent to all the parties signed up to the monitoring agreement, including International Port Holdings, of which GYPC is a subsidiary, Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the Environment Agency among others.

Alastair Tindle is the chartered surveyor who on behalf of Bourne Leisure has spent the last 18 months gathering reports compiled on Hopton's coastal waters.

Though keen to stress conclusions had yet to be drawn on whether the outer harbour was responsible, he said if they were pursuing redress in the form of restoring the beach it would 'be in millions, not hundreds of thousands of pounds.'

Mr Tindle, who is to speak at Hopton Parish Council meeting on Monday, added: 'The monitoring agreement was set up to ensure that when the harbour was constructed there was no harm to coastal processes, and though we don't know what's happened we do know we've not got a beach left,' he said.

'Bourne Leisure were concerned when they saw the beach disappearing to discover what was going on and it's taken 18 months to get the information together and get this to where we are now, which is producing modelling information.'

Mr Tindle said concerns had been prompted by the fact that current HR Wallingford's current monitoring 'couldn't tell us why the beach has gone.'

'That's because the monitoring was set when the last major study was done in 1998 and science has moved on since then.

'There's always been the opportunity to do it and improve it but it's never happened.'

He added he had struggled to get some of the information from HR Wallingford, who would need permission from their client, with whom he had hoped to collaborate to produce a more informed report.

And, according to Bourne Leisure's letter, they were told that HR Wallingford could not offer their services as there was a 'conflict of interest' with its role for GYPC.

The letter states that the monitoring of wave refraction, a potentially important process which was not possible to measure in 1998 had not been included in survey updates in 2004.

It also puts forward two hypothesis that 'should have been tested'- namely the shelter effect of the harbour during storms, and the 'snaking' effect of the longshore current.

In a statement responding to the letter, Eliza O' Toole, vice chairman of International Port Holdings, said: 'The outer harbour was built in accordance with development and environmental approvals granted by the relevant authorities after full consideration by them of all environmental impacts.

'We are, and continue to be, in compliance with all the relevant approvals and our intent going forward is to maintain such compliance.'

Follow John Owens on Twitter @JOwensMercury

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter