On Friday evening this week I have been invited by the Sandgate Society to deliver the Greenwall lecture, at 7.30pm in the Chichester Hall. The Society has been working at the heart of life in Sandgate Village for over fifty years to preserve its character, conserve its fine historic buildings and to organise events to bring the community together. It’s always a pleasure to be invited to speak to the Society, and on this occasion I have been asked to address the issue of sea defences.
For over twenty years there has been substantial investment in the coastal defences to prevent flooding. In the past, particularly when bad storm weather coincided with spring tides, there was a recurrent risk of a breach of the sea defences causing flooding in homes along the coast. Long standing residents of Sandgate have told me that years ago in severe cases, people could be asked to open their front and back doors to let sea water run off of the high street through their homes.
From the coastal park in Folkestone to Fisherman’s Beach in Hythe, the main method of keeping the sea out, has been to build up the levels of the shingle beach, and construct rock groyne barriers to try to hold the shingle in place. Nevertheless, the force of the sea still washes away a great deal of shingle, and this is replenished every year by Shepway council and the Environment Agency. In 2014 some 180,000 tonnes of shingle were moved in place along this stretch of coast at a cost of over £400,000.
Further along the coast towards Dungeness and Rye there has been substantial investment, with more planned as well over the next few years. From the opening of the new sea wall at Dymchurch, a multi million pound investment, and including new schemes to upgrade defences along the coast, the Environment Agency is spending £130million protect homes and farmland from flooding. This includes the £10million announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of last year for the Broomhill Sands Coastal Defence Scheme from Camber to Jury’s Gap, along with upgrades to the Romney Sands Coastal Defences, the Denge Beach Management, and refurbishing the sea defences to protect the Lydd Ranges. This investment adds to the work recently completed by the Environment Agency to improve the sea defences at Littlestone beach. This is excellent news for residents in Romney Marsh who know that because of its unique geography, it must be defended from coastal flooding at all points where there is a risk of the sea breaking through.
This investment is also reflected now in the local flood maps prepared by the Environment Agency. These maps are used by the insurance industry to set the premiums for their policies, so local residents should now be paying less to make sure their homes are covered. Local specialist brokers often also offer better deals than those quoted by price comparison websites, and it is well worth talking to them before committing to any particular deal.