Huw Merriman, MP for the Pevensey, Stone Cross and Westham area, has pressed Ministers at the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (‘DEFRA’) and the Environment Agency to ensure that the next coastal defence contract for Pevensey Bay fully takes into account the risks of extreme weather incidents and rising sea levels which are anticipated as a result of climate change.
Currently the coastal flood risk along the Pevensey Bay frontage is managed by Pevensey Coastal Defence Ltd, through a 25 year Public Finance Initiative, on behalf of the Environment Agency. Since 2000, the works have consisted of active beach maintenance, but this contract is due to end in 2025. The MP sought a meeting with the DEFRA Minister to seek reassurance that the contract will be renewed and, if necessary, strengthened for future climate effects.
The MP was reassured that the Environment Agency has started proactively investigating how the coast frontage will be managed from 2025, when current Flood Defence Grant in Aid (GiA) funding expires. Since this meeting, the Environment Agency has written to the MP to set out its ambitions for this project. The Agency state that they will work in partnership with the local councils, businesses and communities to develop a sustainable flagship coastal flood risk management project along the Pevensey and Eastbourne frontage. Over the coming 4 years the project team will strive to develop an ‘innovative and creative solution’ which will manage the flood risk and promote sustainable growth and environmental improvements. The project will additionally look to create a better space for people and the environment, and incorporate wider benefits including regeneration, carbon reduction and environmental enhancements.
The Environment Agency has recently submitted a business case to DEFRA to request funding to start the appraisal process. The appraisal works will ensure the right investment and planning decisions are made to secure sustainable growth and environmental improvements, as well as developing infrastructure resilient to flooding and coastal change. Engagement will be vital for the project and once funding has been approved the Environment Agency will look to work with the coastal communities to shape the future management of the frontage and feed into the appraisal work.
The MP said “I know just how important this sea defence contract is to the community of Pevensey Bay and the surrounding areas of the Pevensey Levels. The worry of future flood events are very real for residents some of whom remember being evacuated from their Pevensey Bay homes in 1999. Having now met with the Floods Minister, Rebecca Pow, to discuss the contract for Pevensey, I am reassured that more will be done. I look forward to working with the Environment Agency closely on this project to ensure that it meets the needs of the local community and fully takes into account the predicted effects of climate change and rising sea levels on the local area.”
Tom Liddiard, East Sussex County Councillor for Pevensey & Westham said “As county councillor for Pevensey and Westham, I regularly speak to local residents about their concerns for their homes, livelihoods and local infrastructure should the sea defences fail. They want to know that they will continue to be protected when the current contract ends. I, and the district councillor team for the area, will be taking a keen interest in the contract development and will be working hard to ensure full engagement with councils, residents and businesses.”