The view at Cuckmere Haven near the Seven Sisters is beautiful one – and, for many of you no doubt, a very familiar one, with the cottages on the coastline often used as settings in film and TV… and they’re about to take centre stage once again in the forthcoming Blithe Spirit, starring Dame Judi Dench.
But the view at Cuckmere Haven could soon be very different, as the Environment Agency has now said that it can no longer afford to maintain coastal flood defences that protect the cliffs from erosion, the Argus reports.
But erosion will continue so it seems that something must be done or the clifftop coastguard cottages that have stood on the cliffs for generations could fall into the sea.
Local residents have been mixing their own concrete and repairing the sea walls themselves for years in a bid to protect their homes – and now the Cuckmere Haven Save Our Shores group has applied to the South Downs National Park to repair the concrete and timber walls, to help preserve the cottages for future generations.
“The defences have been here since 1947 and pretty much ever since then the people living here have mended it themselves. We’ve been working on this for six years already and spent about £30,000 so far on reports for the application.
“Three of the cottages are owned by descendants of the Coastguard which lived in them three generations ago,” 83-year-old Kitty Ann – owner of historic Cable Hut 14 – said.
Phase one of the repair work will cost around £200,000, according to Save Our Shores, with massive rocks (between four and five tonnes each) used to create a wall.
This would be the most effective way of dispersing the power of storm waves, but the rocks would have to be sourced from Norway or France and then shipped by barge to Cuckmere Haven – at colossal expense.
The local coastline has also just been designated a Marine Conservation zone, which means there should be no unnatural disturbance to the beach and shore platform.
The second option is less intrusive and consists of a line of low level sheet piling driven into the chalk along the existing piling, which is now showing signs of disintegration. Concrete could be used to fill the gap between the old and new walls, with minimal impact on the Marine Conservation Zone.
This would follow a curving line to a point north-east of the Cable Hut, where its top would be at ground level. These pilings would be deep enough to prevent the undermining action of the waves.
Current government policy is to allow natural processes on this particular stretch of coastline, which could well result in gradual or sudden coastal retreat. The cost of protecting Cuckmere Haven has now grown too great for local pockets… so it seems that action must be taken – and soon.
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