FLOOD-THREATENED Pagham residents have come face-to-face with wildlife experts.
Natural England’s James Seymour told the 40 or so people who filled Pagham Yacht Club for the summit last week the organisation would not stand in the way of their £750,000 plans to defend their homes.
He confirmed Natural England was providing revised advice about the proposal to cut a channel in the Church Norton Spit which is causing the tides to erode the beach.
It recognised the problems caused by the situation and the distress and difficulties faced by those whose properties could be flooded.
“We want to make it crystal clear that we are not standing in the way of this planning application.
“We are confident the work to submit the current application provides a clear basis for addressing the environmental issues,” he said.
This would enable the relevant councils and the Marine Management Organisation to consider all aspects of the scheme.
Pagham is one of the most important stretches of coast in Europe for wildlife and is protected under several environmental laws.
But Cllr Ray Radmall, Pagham Parish Council’s chairman, stressed people’s properties and lives were at risk.
“This will have a significant impact on homes and lives. It’s not about saving the shingle because it’s interesting,” he said.
The parish council will have enough funding put by to ensure the channel’s maintenance for ten years.
He hoped work would start in late August. It should take 10-12 weeks to complete.
The parish council will also be meeting the MMO, which has to issue a licence for the work to take place, to discuss matters like the compensatory habitats which the council’s scheme provides for the protected species such as little terns which nest on the spit.
Pagham Flood Defence sub-group chairman Robin Henderson said: “This is a most welcome response from Natural England in trying to help us with our plans so that we have a successful operation.”
But he warned: “This is a vulnerable community. This situation has been a long time in the making.
“We are on life support now. We would like to start work by September but I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that will happen.
“There is still a big process that needs to be done with Arun and the other agencies. There is a lot of frustration having worked on this for 18 months that we are still going through bureaucracy and red tape.”