Offshore dredging investigation

Hopes were raised this week that a link between coastal erosion and offshore dredging could be investigated further by a government spending watchdog.In June, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and environmental pressure group Marinet called for the National Audit Office to carry out a full investigation of the effects of offshore dredging because of fears it increases coastal erosion.

Hopes were raised this week that a link between coastal erosion and offshore dredging could be investigated further by a government spending watchdog.

In June, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and environmental pressure group Marinet called for the National Audit Office to carry out a full investigation of the effects of offshore dredging because of fears it increases coastal erosion.

Although ruling out a specific investigation into whether dredging should be allowed to continue, the watchdog has announced a review of the way the Environment Agency deals with coastal protection.

In a letter to the MP, it highlighted three main issues: the way the agency develops its strategies for managing the coastline; how it decides which schemes are given the go-ahead; and whether the “cost-benefit analysis” (an assessment of the benefits of coastal protection in relation to how much they cost) was adequate.

Pat Gowen, East Anglia spokesman for Marinet, said that although the watchdog had not agreed to a full investigation of dredging, he believed the announcement was good news. He said a review of the Environment Agency's role would be likely to include a look at dredging and could lead to a reduction in the activity.

On Monday, Mr Lamb agreed the review was a positive result. He said: “That is clearly good news. Many of us feel the cost-benefit analysis does not take into account fully the value of our landscape here and the importance of the communities that are affected.”

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But the MP added the decision not to look specifically at whether aggregate dredging, which raised £17.7m for the government in 2007-08, should continue was disappointing.

He said: “A vast amount of money is being raised by the government by issuing dredging licences - the very least they could do is agree to commission new research to ensure we have a better understanding of it.”