Erosion of sea defences
EVEN King Canute, not a renowned expert on holding back the sea, might feel better equipped for the job than some of Felixstowe's sea defences.Low tides have revealed the devastation caused by gale-lashed winter waves and a number of the groynes are looking in need of urgent attention.
By RICHARD CORNWELL
EVEN King Canute, not a renowned expert on holding back the sea, might feel better equipped for the job than some of Felixstowe's sea defences.
Low tides have revealed the devastation caused by gale-lashed winter waves and a number of the groynes are looking in need of urgent attention.
The damage to the breakwaters, caused by erosion, is not the result of one bad winter – but the onslaught of many seasons, the sea never tiring in its quest, smashing onto the beaches with relentless force.
But the situation cannot go on indefinitely and extra protection will, at some stage, be needed for parts of the shoreline.
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Suffolk Coastal council carried out some work at the end of the winter, repairing two of the worst damaged breakwaters on the south side of the pier, in front of the south seafront development site.
The work, which involved placing steel cages around the groynes and filling them with concrete to reinforce them, cost £20,000 and was paid for from a budget set aside to keep on top of the deterioration and any unexpected damage.
The council also spent £140,000 this winter on emergency work to bolster beaches on the East Beach in Undercliff Road East to prevent the prom from collapse.
Suffolk Coastal's sea defence engineers say all beaches fluctuate and do not believe Felixstowe is set to lose an enormous chunk of its shore overnight.
However, they have commissioned consultants Halcrow, at a cost of £167,000, to analyse the resort's coast and produce a report on its future.
Campaigner Norman Thompson, believes the consultants should be asked to use radioactive tracers to see where the shingle which is washed away ends up.
He believes much of it is being swept into the shipping lane, which is dredged continually to ensure the world's largest ships can enter and leave the port.
"The shipping lanes off Felixstowe are enormous in depth and width and it makes sense for people to worry that material is being swept off our beaches into that channel a mile away," said Mr Thompson.
"Radioactive tracers were used at Blackpool, where they were taken by the sea from the shore and recovered from the shipping lanes.
"If material is going into our shipping lane, the port could be asked to bring the material back to replenish the beaches."
Halcrow's experts are expected to have their report ready by August.
They have been looking at the resort's coastline from the new £2.8m defences around Cobbold's Point to the flood plain at low-lying Landguard.
There has been fierce criticism from some quarters of the Cobbold's Point reef scheme, which has improved the beaches in part but in places is not working with a big drop to the beach at Maybush Lane and erosion to beach hut sites.
Tonnes of sand and shingle sprayed onto the beach to protect it last summer has already been swept away.