New threat to Suffolk coast

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect the county's coastline from the ravages of the sea said last night that plans to vastly increase the dredging zone off Southwold could dramatically “speed up” erosion.

Mark Lord

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect the county's coastline from the ravages of the sea said last night that plans to vastly increase the dredging zone off Southwold could dramatically “speed up” erosion.

Marine aggregate companies want to dredge an area of seabed off the coast which campaigners claim would be 10 times the size of the current dredging zone being worked.

Environmental pressure group Marinet, which is part of Friends of the Earth, has warned a consortium of marine aggregate companies is considering increasing the current area used for dredging.


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The newly-formed Anglian Offshore Dredging Association (AODA) has put the new area forward for discussion and is to hold a public information day on the proposals.

Marinet said AODA had not yet applied for a licence to dredge the new area but it had carried out a marine aggregate regional environmental assessment and an application was expected shortly.

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Pat Gowen, of Marinet and the North Sea Action Group, said: “This new area would be much nearer to the shoreline and much more localised damage would be caused to the area around Southwold much quicker than in the past.

“Dredging causes larger waves and speeds up erosion along our coast.”

He added that dredging makes the seabed steeper and weakens offshore sandbanks which otherwise would break up large waves.

Coastal protection campaigner Peter Boggis, who has built his own sea defences at Easton Bavents, near Southwold, said: “The affects of dredging are not clearly understood and the Government should adopt a precautionary principle and be sure the coast is properly protected before allowing any further dredging to take place.

“It has been noted in Easton Bavents and Southwold that dredging has increased erosion in the area.”

No-one from AODA or for the British Marine Aggregate Producers' Association (BMAPA), which represents most of the companies involved in offshore dredging, were available to comment yesterday .

But a statement on the BMAPA website said that “by providing essential resources to replenish beaches, marine aggregates are a solution to coastal erosion rather than the cause of it. Such erosion is a natural process, driven by waves and currents that affect both beaches and cliffs.”

It added: “One of the industry's key objectives is to ensure that dredging does not affect such processes; for example by changing the wave climate or interfering with seabed sediment transport. Before permission to dredge is granted, careful analysis of waves and currents in the area is undertaken using hydrodynamic models.

“Permission would not be given if the experts felt there was the slightest threat. As a further safety mechanism, monitoring of the seabed, and adjacent coast in sensitive areas, is also undertaken while dredging is carried out.”

AODA is holding a public information day at the Vice Admiral Bar at Great Yarmouth Racecourse on September 26, with three 20 minute presentation sessions at 3pm, 5pm and 7pm.

Marinet has asked the National Audit Office to investigate whether it is cost-effective to dredge sand and gravel for sea defences when the dredging itself may be contributing to erosion.

Marine dredging is a major source of government income, raising millions every year in licences because the land is part of the Crown Estate - and millions more in VAT when the aggregate is sold. About 25million tonnes of sand and gravel are taken from the sea bed around England and Wales each year.

The material is used mostly for buildings and roads, but some goes to repair sea defences and replace sand washed away from beaches.

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