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Shifting shingle

PUBLISHED: 16:52 23 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:28 03 March 2010

CALLS have been made for radioactive tracer devices to be used to track the shingle vanishing from a resort's holiday beaches.

There has been growing concern about erosion at Felixstowe in recent months, especially in the area next to a newly-completed £3 million sea defence scheme.

CALLS have been made for radioactive tracer devices to be used to track the shingle vanishing from a resort's holiday beaches.

There has been growing concern about erosion at Felixstowe in recent months, especially in the area next to a newly-completed £3 million sea defence scheme.

Council chiefs have had "Beware Drop" painted in two feet high letters on the prom with mesh fencing alongside to stop people plunging onto the beach, now several feet below the prom's edge, and put up signs about dangerous groynes.

Some beach observers though fear that shingle from the shore may be being washed away into the shipping channel leading in to Felixstowe Port.

"Each time this is suggested, council sea defence staff rubbish the idea," said retired engineer Norman Thompson.

"But the shingle must be going somewhere, and it could well be that it is being swept off the beaches by the tide and ending up in the shipping lane and not coming out again.

"There is only one way to find out and that is to use radioactive tracers so that we can follow what happens to the shingle and see where it ends up.

"I think it is essential that this is done now before we have another winter."

Mr Thompson, of Montague Road, Felixstowe, said he understood that if it could be proved that offshore dredging of some kind was responsible for beach loss, the dredger could be required by law to reinstate beaches.

"This has happened at Blackpool, where the council has been very vigorous in chasing the matter to find out what is causing harm to the beaches," he said.

Radioactive tracers could be placed on the beach and their signal then monitored to see where they travel to and end up after high tides have washed the shores.

The shipping lanes off Felixstowe are dredged all year round to keep them to correct the depth to accommodate the world's largest container ships and allow them to arrive and depart at any state of the tide.

Elsewhere off the coast aggregate dredging takes place, but it is thought that these sites – mined under licence from the Department of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs – are too far away to directly affect the beaches.

Suffolk Coastal council has also said it was not believed that dredging was causing a problem to the coastline.

"The professional expert view appears to be that the current problems around Felixstowe are as a result of the increasingly unsettled weather, but the council expects that government experts will be monitoring the situation," it said.

The council has also employed consultants Halcrow to investigate the problems of erosion at Felixstowe to see what solutions might be possible.

WEBLINKS: www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

www.environment-agency.gov.uk

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