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Reefs could tackle coastal erosion

PUBLISHED: 10:40 09 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:16 03 July 2010

A FRESH look at whether man-made reefs could be the answer to Norfolk's coastal erosion problems is being backed by landowners.

Engineers are experimenting with models of a range of reef shapes and how they affect wave patterns.

A FRESH look at whether man-made reefs could be the answer to Norfolk's coastal erosion problems is being backed by landowners.

Engineers are experimenting with models of a range of reef shapes and how they affect wave patterns.

But a linked exercise, looking at how reef shapes and positioning impact on beach sand movement, has been backed by Norfolk's branch of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The aim is to see if reefs can be engineered to create the kind of stable sandy bays which exist between headlands.

Some rock reefs already exist off Sea Palling, but only nine of a planned 16 were completed after concerns of the impact further down the coast, which was being starved of a healthy flow of sediment.

It also comes as a time when the government is abandoning many long-established sea defences in a policy of seeking a more natural coastline, which is says can withstand erosion better and more cost effectively.

The Palling reefs were built before that policy came in, at a weak spot of low-lying coast seen as a potential breakthrough spot into the priceless wildlife area of the Broads.

The CLA says the Palling reefs were in the wrong position, cutting off the longshore drift, but believes similar barriers could be a solution if they are angled correctly.

But despite the fact that the result could save the government millions in coastal defence spending, the CLA failed to get any financial backing for the project from the environment department Defra and has had to gather together a local package of funding.

Help from Norfolk County Council, North Norfolk District Council, and the county's Historic Churches Trust is paying for the project being done by coastal engineers Halcrow at Southampton University.

CLA regional director Nicola Currie said: “We are hoping that for a small sum of money we can save enormous amounts of money protecting the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts. This affects landowners, businesses and food security - and could be a stitch in time for future generations.”

“We have been defending the coast since Roman times and should we be the generation to give it up?”

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