Groynes pose clear and present 'danger'

FELIXSTOWE'S tourist trade would be wrecked forever if a child was crushed to death under one of the beach's crumbling breakwaters, a safety expert warned today.

By Richard Cornwell

FELIXSTOWE'S tourist trade would be wrecked forever if a child was crushed to death under one of the beach's crumbling breakwaters, a safety expert warned today.

A safety expert fears that the state of the groynes is worsening – and says more children than ever are using them as a playground.

"The council has just put more signs up and hopes people will take notice and keep off the rocks and old concrete groynes, but these are dangerous areas and people don't always take notice," said sea rescue group chief John Cresswell.

"There is an accident waiting to happen.

"And if a child was killed playing on those groynes, or crawling underneath them because there is a clear air draught under some of them, this resort would never recover.

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"A death would kill off the tourist trade overnight. People would just not come here any more and a reputation like that is very hard to shift."

Mr Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, said he had been worried all summer about youngsters playing on the rock groynes near Cobbold's Point and the breakwaters along the whole beach.

Erosion has caused the beach levels to drop in certain places, leaving gaps beneath the concrete groynes, which are only about three feet deep.

Some of the gaps have been large enough for small children to crawl under and through.

"They get through with these enormous pieces of concrete weighing tonnes just suspended above them. One of them could easily come crashing down – if a child was there at the wrong moment, it would be horrendous," said Mr Cresswell.

"I think the council should take away the groynes. I know sea defence work is expensive and it is waiting to see what measures it should take.

"But at this stage, those groynes are dilapidated and next to useless and we would be better off without these obstacles. Take them away and just leave a clear safe beach.

"There are too many signs about the dangers we have – and just because you put up a sign doesn't mean you are not responsible for a hazard. Too many signs and people don't bother to read them all anyway."

Suffolk Coastal council has taken action several times recently to stick wooden boards across the bottom of breakwaters where erosion has caused a gap. The council has also repaired two of the worst-affected ones at a cost of £20,000.

It says beach levels fluctuate continually and regular inspections are carried out to deal with any problem spots.

It has commissioned consultants Halcrows to investigate the state of the coast and recommend action to deal with its problems, concentrating particularly on the groynes, south beach, Manor End, Landguard and to analyse the success of the recently-completed Cobbold's Point scheme. The report is expected soon.

WEBLINK: www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

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