Hopton beach erosion report anger

John Owens A MEETING aimed at shedding light on the coastal erosion debate at Hopton has fanned the flames of the controversy and lead to accusations of a whitewash.

John Owens

A MEETING aimed at shedding light on the coastal erosion debate at Hopton has fanned the flames of the controversy and lead to accusations of a whitewash.

Senior officials were at the village hall on Monday to reveal the findings of a controversial report looking at how the outer harbour had affected the rate of beach depletion.

Campaigners - who say the port is fuelling erosion - were told their views were not backed up by a beach monitoring survey, triggering sighs of disbelief among some of those listening.

The beach monitoring study's conclusions were read out to a hall packed with more than 70 members of the public by Great Yarmouth Borough Council executive director for the economy and environment Peter Hardy, at Hopton's parish council meeting.

While accepting there had been a dramatic change to Hopton's beach, Mr Hardy said such changes were down to long term cycles along the coastline.

Most Read

He added: “There is as yet no significant impact from the construction of the outer harbour. It doesn't mean there will be no impact- it's merely to date.”

Those at the meeting heard that at least twice yearly surveys would be carried out until 2017 when, if no sign of a direct impact was detected, they would probably end. However if the outer harbour was found to be accelerating erosion, then Great Yarmouth Port Company would be responsible for making amends.

During a heated public questioning of Mr Hardy and Bernard Harris, coastal manager for the council, a number of concerns were raised questioning the report's conclusions.

Brian Hardisty, chairman of Hopton Coastal Action Group, questioned the independence of HR Wallingford who carried out the study, but were also involved in the development and planning of the outer harbour.

He said: “This report isn't independent - HR Wallingford is a company which the international port holders have spent a lot of money with - there's a conflict of interest here and this report should be thrown out by the borough council.”

As well as denying this, the borough representatives denied that a recent resizing of the outer harbour would have changed the findings of the report, and that an error made in monitoring over beach measurements had impacted on the results.

And while members of the public repeatedly cited their first hand experience of watching the beach shrink in recent years on a day-to-day basis, suggestions that more regular monitoring was needed were refuted.

Also in the spotlight were protection schemes for Hopton in the long term.

Mr Harris said that erosion, rather than flooding, was the main issue in the area, and that a decision regarding funding for a review of current schemes along the coast and a look at solutions would be made in April by the Environment Agency.

He went on to reject the need for immediate work and emphasised that emergency works, which could be implemented in a shorter time frame, might not get such funding.

Mr Harris said: “There's no guarantee we will be reimbursed for such works on Hopton, which could come in the region of �600,000, and the funding would have to be borne by the local authority - and that means council tax payers.”

Following the report, Mr Hardisty said: “We expected a whitewash and that is what we got. We are not disappointed. We got what we expected. It was never going to be their fault.”

A meeting will be held on Monday in Hopton between a senior minister, Tony Wright MP and representatives from local coastal groups looking at the severe changes to Hopton's beach and the broader efforts to protect the coastline.

Mr Wright said: “I'm not saying it is the harbour that's doing it but the change to the beach at Hopton has been profound and if it's a case it just happens to be a coincidence it's one hell of a coincidence - quite clearly people will be sceptical about the conclusions of the report.”