Hopton beach; Now you see it, now you don’t?

AT first glance, they are snapshots fit for a postcard – two scenes of a coastline bathed in blissful sunshine.

But look more closely: while one beach glimmers golden, the other is shingle strewn, and broken up by the long skeleton of a wooden groyne reaching into the sea.

Taken five years apart at a low tide, these pictures hint at a storm of controversy that is refusing to die down.

Brian Hardisty is chairman of Hopton Coastal Action Group and a campaigner who believes that sand on the beach is rapidly diminishing because of the effect of the outer harbour walls on coastal currents.

Having shot the first picture in 2006 to initially to show the dangers of jet skiers close to the shoreline – hence the white splash in the middle – the latest photo was taken this week.

Mr Hardisty said: “I took the pictures from my garden on the cliff top, and they show the contrast of how the beach should look and how it looks now.

“It must be about six to eight feet down and it’s lower than it’s ever been. The beach is like a bomb site now.”

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In the most recent picture, a small ramp can be seen on the far right hand side descending to the shore.

“That was covered [by sand] prior to the outer harbour days,” said Mr Hardisty, “and people didn’t even know it was there.”

The pictures follow on from concern from a number of quarters about the state of the village’s coastline and fears the outer harbour project, launched in 2007, is responsible.

Such concerns prompted a meeting between Great Yarmouth Borough Council officials and the public last year, in which a monitoring survey was reported as showing there was no evidence to back up the beach fears.

However, like many at the meeting, Mr Hardisty rejects HR Wallingford’s studies, and said that if nothing changes he fears that the much-loved beach will lose its sand entirely, with only clay remaining.

“What bothers us is that the process has been greatly accelerated, and what would have happened in 75 years is happening within 10 to 15 years,” he said.

Of the threat this might have to the village’s holiday industry, he added: “A caravan holiday is a beach holiday. They don’t rent caravans to spend money in Yarmouth, they want to be on Hopton beach.”