Great Yarmouth outer harbour given go ahead to extend breakwater

EASTPORT has been given the go-ahead to extend the breakwaters of Great Yarmouth’s outer harbour despite objections from the owners of Hopton Holiday Village.

Concerned by the dramatic and unexplained loss of sand at Hopton, Bourne Leisure had written to the planning authority – the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) – formally objecting to variations in EastPort’s licence to allow the work.

However, in ruling there is no scientific reason for upholding the objection, the MMO has permitted the work, which is expected to be carried out during the summer.

In an effort to address the swell problem which has dogged the port during its first 18 months of operation, the 200m wide entrance to the harbour is to be reduced by up to 50m by extending the breakwater arms.

The breakwaters will also be raised and made more dense by adding extra rock. EastPort chief executive Eddie Freeman said it was expected the work would be completed well before the end of the year.

Bourne Leisure’s technical expert Alastair Tindle said the reason for their objection was that they did not think EastPort had been fully complying with previous licence conditions, which included monitoring the impact of the harbour on the surrounding coastline.

He said: “The MMO is the policing authority, but when we asked them for the relevant data demanded by the conditions, including survey information and environmental reports, they said they did not have it.

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“We wanted all the available data to plug into our own modelling work to try to determine why we are losing our beach.”

In noting the issues raised by Bourne Leisure, the MMO has commissioned the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) to review data relating to the outer harbour with particular regard to the impact on coastal processes.

It is understood Cefas will be reporting to the MMO in the coming weeks and its conclusions will be used by the planning authority to help it decide whether extra monitoring or remedial works are required.

Mr Tindle, who is working in partnership with Phil Barber, one of the country’s leading experts on coastal processes, insisted that reviewing existing data would be of limited value because monitoring reports undertaken up to now had failed to embrace the latest science.

However, he said it was hoped that their independent modelling work would provide answers within the next three months as to why Hopton beach was being lost.

The stakes are potentially huge because if it is proved the outer harbour is responsible for beach loss, EastPort could be faced with a bill running to many millions of pounds to remedy the situation.

Eliza O’Toole, vice-chairman of EastPort’s parent company, International Port Holdings, has previously stated that “the harbour was built in accordance with development and environmental approvals granted by the relevant authorities after full consideration by them of all environmental impacts”.

She said they were in compliance with all the relevant approvals.