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Defence work to take account of wildlife

PUBLISHED: 11:30 29 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:54 03 July 2010

EFFORTS to protect seals, their pups, little terns and ringed plovers will be among the ecological measures taken during sea defence work on the north Norfolk coast, which is due to start next month.

EFFORTS to protect seals, their pups, little terns and ringed plovers will be among the ecological measures taken during sea defence work on the north Norfolk coast, which is due to start next month.

Environment Agency contractors will bring in 30,000 tonnes of sea defence rock by barge to the coast at Eccles and Horsey and dredge 280,000 cubic metres of sand to recharge the beaches at Sea Palling and Waxham.

The news of the major, multi-million-pound operation raised concerns among those who know the stretch of coast well - particularly in connection with a well-known colony of seals often seen hauled up on the beach around Horsey.

Chris Barton, from Knapton, said he had specific concerns about the breeding colony, which was entering the time of year when pups were born.

But the seal issue is just one of several matters involving both wildlife and safety to people which the Environment Agency has said will be taken into account by a series of mitigation measures.

These include:

In order to protect pups and seals, construction work on the groynes between November and January will be supervised by an ecologist to ensure there will be no, or minimal, disturbance to the animals.

Carrying out the work outside the bird breeding season to prevent adverse impacts on little terns and ringed plovers.

Signs will be put up warning people of the hazards associated with both the construction and the groynes themselves on completion.

A watching brief will be undertaken if the groyne construction disturbs the clay layer, because there is concern about disturbing unknown archaeological remains.

An exclusion area for part of the project which will see recycling of old rock into repaired groynes will be set up around the ruins of St Mary's Church, which used to stand in the village of Eccles but was finally claimed by the sea when it toppled in 1895.

The beach recharge project was launched in the mid-1990s as part of a wider scheme which saw nine granite offshore reefs built at Sea Palling and Waxham to protect the Broads - resulting in altered patterns of longshore drift and the starvation of sand supplies to beaches to the south of the reefs.

The recharging was controversially shelved in 2005 after Defra withdrew Environment Agency funding. That funding has now been made available again.

The rock will be used to build ten groynes between Horsey Ness and Winterton Ness Gap to replace failed timber or rock groynes.

Surplus rock buried under the beach will also be excavated for reuse, while a 275-metre stretch of rock revetment at Eccles will be reconstructed.

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