'Dredging is leaving coast vulnerable'
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling on the Government to look again at how it approves large-scale dredging operations off the coast of East Anglia.The environmental group Marinet is concerned that sucking sand and gravel from the sea bed is not only damaging the marine environment but leading to accelerated coastal erosion in locations such as Easton Bavents, near Southwold, and along the north Norfolk coast.
By David Lennard
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling on the Government to look again at how it approves large-scale dredging operations off the coast of East Anglia.
The environmental group Marinet is concerned that sucking sand and gravel from the sea bed is not only damaging the marine environment but leading to accelerated coastal erosion in locations such as Easton Bavents, near Southwold, and along the north Norfolk coast.
About 10 million tonnes of material are dredged off the East Anglian coast each year and used in projects such as road building.
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Dr Ian, Selby, of Hanson Aggregates, says the industry "takes every precaution" to avoid causing damage and that studies are carried out before any dredging takes place.
"Before we're given permission to dredge, the sea bed is modelled by independent consultants and we look at the sediment transport across the sea bed.
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"Permission wouldn't be given by the Government unless they're happy," said Dr Selby.
Marinet campaigners are not convinced and have launched a campaign in Parliament to press the Government to study the effects of dredging.
Marinet – Marine Information Network – consists of representatives of a number of groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Green Party members and coastal residents and campaigners.
Chairman Pat Gowen said: "We fear that coastal erosion is being increased as a result of commercial dredging from the sea bed."
He thought that coastal erosion would become even more serious along the Suffolk coast in the future.
"In the past the more serious problems have been off the Norfolk coast but there is evidence that coastal erosion is spreading further south and the Suffolk coast is now under serious threat," said Mr Gowen.
At Easton Bavents local resident Peter Boggis has been desperately trying to slow down the rate of erosion by dumping soft earth material at the base of the cliffs.
He agrees with Marinet that commercial dredging has played a part in accelerating the rate of erosion.
"The erosion at Easton Bavents has accelerated since 1976 because of the impact of commercial dredging.
"The Barnet Sands off Benacre have virtually disappeared through dredging and they were important in reducing the size and energy of the waves coming on to the shore," said Mr Boggis.
Although some environmentalists are calling on the situation to be carefully monitored Mr Boggis believes that more positive action is needed.
"We have been monitoring the situation for far too long and the time has come to accept that there is a real emergency in protecting parts of the Suffolk and Norfolk coasts," he said.