SOME 300 concerned residents a minute pledged their support to protect Pagham from flooding.
The first hour of Pagham Action Group’s initial open day saw at least 200 people join its e-newsletter mailing list.
The final total at the end of the display’s four hours reached 366. A total of £880 was donated to the Pagham Flood Defence Group which has been set up by the parish’s vicar, the Rev Mark Eminson.
The determined response was apparent throughout the event at Pagham Village Hall. Hundreds took the chance to find out what is happening to the eroding beach –and why.
Action group chairman David Huntley was delighted by the turnout on Saturday.
He said: “We’ve been absolutely packed out. It shows there are a lot of people on our side but we could always do with more support.”
The need for action to stop the beach from being further eroded was urgent, he said.
“I don’t think we will last another winter,” said Mr Huntley. “There was 45-50m of shingle in front of my house on West Front Road before Christmas. There’s now 28m.
“Some houses have only 17m left in front of them. We lost 20m in one 48-hour period in the winter.”
The purpose of the day was to show people the action group’s preferred remedy – to split the spit and the red tape which would surround the work.
Mr Huntley said Pagham Parish Council chairman Ray Radmall and Cllr Paul Dendle, the environmental services cabinet member for Arun District Council, had agreed to undertake a scoping report about cutting the channel.
But this is only the first stage in a long and costly series of actions needed to be undertaken to meet the British and European rules of a site surrounded by environmental laws.
The scouring of the beach has been caused by the growing Church Norton Spit which has moved the mouth to Pagham Harbour. The spit forces the tides going in and out of the harbour against the beach.
It also stops the shingle which would naturally be placed on the beach from getting to the foreshore.
Replacement shingle put on the beach – costing £600,000 – has been washed away. A rock revetment installed just before Christmas for £500,000 has been undermined while protecting some homes.
Campaigners say a channel through the spit would stop the tides rubbing along the beach. But there is no obligation on the government to fund the work.
The situation was shown in easy-to-read displays at the open day as well as a video of the beach. They spelled out how a breach of the beach could affect a large area of Pagham with flooding.
Among those reading them was Malcolm Newell, 73, of Nyetimber Lane. He said: “The situation there is desperate. The rock revetment is protecting the homes in the short term but has done nothing to solve the situation.
“This is something that is going to continue to occur. But they will need to maintain the harbour mouth once they decide where it’s going to be. The situation is complicated by the fact sea levels are rising.”
Helen Knowles-Battye, 49, of the Mill Farm Estate, said: “I’m a bit ticked off the government won’t help us out. There are thousands of peoples’ lives that are seriously affected by what is happening.”
Her mother, Pat Battye, 70, of Mill Farm Estate, said: “David Cameron has said money is no object to make sure people are safe from flooding. That should apply to us as well.”