Unfortunately it’s the case that for most public coast defences, there’s no obligation for any organisation to keep them repaired.
Most councils don’t have the money.
They’re supposed to apply to the government’s flood defence budget, but that simply isn’t big enough.
It is rationed in a way that means funding is especially unlikely for capital works on eroding coastlines, like Selsey’s.
From time to time storm events will obviously happen that damage our defences. Our difficulty is planning financially for that eventuality.
Under the government’s new funding system, local contributions are the key to unlocking government grant aid.
This is what happened at West Wittering recently: residents themselves paid a large portion of the cost of flood defence work and because of that, the government offered to pay the rest.
Without the community contribution, the government wouldn’t have helped. It’s tough but that’s the reality we face.
At Selsey a whip-round won’t produce hundreds of thousands of pounds.
SOS recognises this, so it is supporting the Selsey Coastal Trust (a fledgling community enterprise which will carry out some regeneration schemes at Selsey and plough the profit back into our coastal maintenance), and applauds the complementary initiative of the town council, which is setting aside some reserves to start building up a fund to help lever-in national funding towards our coastal defences.
These are both long-term measures to address a long-term problem.
We can’t take our coastal defences for granted (as seawall damage at Selsey Bill shows) – we need to support initiatives like these, which in the future will help address the funding quandary.
Right now, though, I don’t know how the immediate problem will pan out but hope all parties can work together to find a solution.