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January 7 2014 - Update

It is very sad to witness Bob Brown and Graham Amy seemingly getting personal.

First I have no idea what Graham Amy is driving at when he claims I have chosen to ignore information regarding the 1987 scheme. The pre-1987 beach situation is very well known to me and I fully acknowledge that a major beach re-evaluation was needed at the time. Graham kindly lent me copy of the report on options available and the thinking behind the decision to re-build the beach lost over the previous years. Perhaps he can help me in clarifying what information I have chosen to ignore?

Bob Brown is very dismissive of the 3000 petition on the grounds that it hasn't developed at the pace of the Seaford waste site closure petition, quite right, but to claim most signatures were recorded early on is nonsense, to also claim that people who have signed up have probably also forgotten what they have signed up for is also nonsense.

Jim Skinner


Seaford beach, as a robust flood defence, has now effectively failed. The top, compacted half is now reduced to a very narrow strip along almost the whole length of promenade. The remainder is sand and gravel. This as a result of severe weather, high tides and near thirty years of serious failure by the EA to properly manage the situation and, most concerning of all, adequately act on the obvious warning signs that have been reported to them over the last few years.

We are now effectively close to where we were back in 1987- I pray to God that any proposed way forward is not just to shingle import to rebuild the beach, (which presumably will be required anyway now).

We have now a once in a generation opportunity to implement a different approach based on longevity, sustainability, (a term not muted back in 1987), and environmentally sound.

I, and other equally concerned local people, with long experience of the issues that effect the beach, are very happy to be involved in any debate to decide a new approach and to suggest well reasoned ideas. However it has to be said, without solid commitment from our local elected representatives, any such debate will sadly, as the beach, ultimately fail.

Jim Skinner


I have been reading the exchanges on this subject with wry amusement, but saddened by Jim Skinner's claims that Norman Baker our MP has, in his opinion, neglected to address this issue.

After I was first elected to Seaford Town Council in May 2003, I took on board the concerns of the late Les Whittle, former Mayor of Seaford, who lived near the front and told me he was worried back in 2003 that the beach was being neglected by the Environment Agency (EA). The then Town Clerk Len Fisher and I had exploratory talks with Rupert Clubb who was then the local EA Manager. These were not exactly very productive in my view, but after Mr Clubb left for ESCC things started to improve under Ian Nunn, his replacement.

Eventually regular meetings were held by Seaford Town Council with the EA, sometimes (when they could be bothered to turn up) including representatives of Lewes District Council who do much of the day-to-day cleaning up in the beach area. Following the launch of his beach petition back in 2006 Mr Skinner was invited to these meetings, and at once began to demand a radical review of the whole beach programme. This the EA were, and still are, reluctant to carry out, largely on the grounds of the expense, though they did carry out a costing exercise of an offshore barrier about four years ago.

To be fair to the EA they listened politely to Jim at every meeting he attended, however we were always met with a blank response from them, particularly over the issue I repeatedly raised over the degradation of the beach to coarse sand, which inevitably leads to the kind of "cliffing" which Jim Skinner feels is inherently dangerous. The EA informed me privately that this "cliffing" was an inevitable consequence of higher tide levels consequent to climate change, but would not seem to own up to the dangers of leaving the beach to revert to sand. Only in 2009 and 2010 was a perfunctory effort made to import more dredged shingle which was sprayed on to the area worst affected by erosion, the Boenningstedt Parade front.

After I left Seaford Town Council in May 2011 after 8 years, Jim Skinner ceased going to these EA liaison meetings which I understand (from the Town Clerk) continue to be held, but since I am not now invited I have no way of knowing what is discussed there. What is clear though is that, no doubt with their workload elsewhere deemed far more critical, the EA are going to contimue maintaining the beach at Seaford in the same way long into the future. Whilst Jim will claim that his petition has 3,000 signatures, most of these were signed up at the start of the exercise, many from occasional visitors who no doubt have long since forgotten what they actually signed for. In comparison the recent petition about a specific issue, the proposed tip closure at Seaford, gathered three times as many signatures from local residents in the space of about a month!

It's obvious from the recent storms that although the beach is not as robust as it was in 1987 at the time of the Hurricane, the underlying granite boulders are still doing their job of anchoring much of the remaining shingle in place. However access to the beach will undountedly deteriorate unless the EA import more large shingle to break up the scouring action of the waves; I suspect that this is beyond their budget, sadly.

Bob Brown



Going back to my childhood days, Seaford sported wooden groins at about 50 yard intervals if memory serves me well, and the beach did form up against them to a reasonable depth. Unfortunately the lack of maintenance during and after the war years meant that they were rapidly falling into a state of disrepair that was terminal.

The clever boys then decided that, rather than replace them, they would build longer groins at twice the distance apart.
The effect of these was that a scour was set up between them which removed the shingle very efficiently! Any school child, if given the opportunity, could have told them that putting a shorter groin in between the long ones would have stopped the scour and allowed the beach to regenerate, but this was never done.

As one of your contributors pointed out, Seaford beach can boast the largest waves in the country, which is not surprising considering the beach faces directly down the channel and the first landfall, (which governs the size and spacing of waves), is across the other side of the Atlantic. 30ft express trains 50 yards apart delivers immense power!

The powers-that-be obviously learnt their lesson when dealing with similar problems at Eastbourne, and until they do the same at Seaford and stop playing King Canute with their beach moving fiasco, we will never achieve any stability, or return the beach to the tourist attraction it used to be.



Can I just clarify that my "suggestion" that the western arm at Newhaven should be demolished was intended to be ironic, witty even, but never serious - but my plan obviously failed!

I don't profess to have the expertise of Graham Amy, but I am very grateful for his contributions.

The important point is that there were a number of specialist reports prepared about Seaford Bay in the middle years of the 20th Century. they all contain very valuable information about the Bay and the complexity of the issues which relate, not just to the sea, but the impact of the river joining the sea. I just wish some commentators would read them before raising public expectations about a Riviera style amenity seafront for Seaford.

I was interested in Steve Saunders' description of the offshore reef idea as "wacky", as one option for the future seems to be the construction of such a "lateral groyne", except that it wouldn't be a pier like structure, (such as the Marina arms at Brighton), but would be constructed in a manner to allow the sea to break over the top at high water, thus dissipating the energy. But don't get too excited - I think the time scale suggests it won't be needed for 50 -100 years, and by then there may be alternatives - I wonder if one such scheme might be the installation of wave powered energy generation turbines!(That idea should get the sceptics wound up a bit).

The whole question of the financing of sea defence works for areas like ours is also an interesting one. We could all have ideas, but "who pays" is always the stumbling point. It's interesting to note that when Newhaven had a thriving rail/ferry service, the railway authorities were always willing to stump up and pay, whilst the local councils who shared some of the responsibility at that time, seemed much more reluctant - well, some things don't change!

 An interesting side line to this is that just after the end of the Second World War when there was yet another breach in the sea wall and construction materials were difficult to come by, the local railway managers arranged for a load of rail to be transported from, (I think), the North-East, to be used to make repairs down here.

David S


Well what can I say. Following Jim's original piece in which he expressed concern regarding the apparent apathy on the subject of Seaford Beach, we can very clearly see that apathy doesn’t exist. Perhaps what this issue needed was a catalyst and if this debate has achieved that, then all to the good.

To augment Jim's reply and strengthen the argument for a different approach to Seaford Beach, I should like to pick up on just one point raised in the various correspondence in this debate. That point was that the Seaford Beach scheme was given a life span of 25-30 years.

So whether you judge the Seaford Beach scheme a success or otherwise, the 25 – 30 years is about up, so I come back to my original point way back at the start of this debate, that it is now time to re-evaluate Seaford Beach and look forward to providing something for the next 25 – 30 years.

Mr Grumpy



Thank you to all who have contributed to this debate. This can only be good thing. As you probably know I have personally been very concerned about this very issue for some time now and offer the following as further information:

All will agree, I think, that the 1987 shingle beach is now fast deteriorating and becoming unstable. Witness the sand and gravel make up of the lower beach.

The compressed top part of the beach no longer absorbs sea water, it's consistency is more like concrete.

I personally have pulled children from the water due to the random swell that now occurs at or around high tide as a result of the increasing steepness of the interface between lower and upper beach segments.

The ability of this beach to prevent flooding is now similarly diminishing.

The amenity value of this beach is similarly reducing, with all that implies for the future economy of both Seaford and Lewes District.

Given the undoubted increasing year-on-year cost of this near thirty year-old maintenance scheme, this scheme is truly unsustainable.

As you probably also know, I have asked Norman Baker to go back to the appropriate Minister to again consider SERIOUSLY the way forward, because as sure as eggs are eggs there will be a major flood event and fatalities if the status quo continues much longer.

I am very clear on who I will hold accountable in any ensuing enquiry and it won't just be the EA.

Jim Skinner


My apologies to Reg Dove. I got it wrong. West to east it is.

However the point I was attempting to make is that with an offshore barrier, be it a wall or a rock barrier, the “sideways shingle drift” would be unlikely to occur, as the only tidal influence would surely be up and down the beach.

R Beckett


I have only just read Mr Grumpy's letter and feel he has a different memory of the state of Seaford beach in the seventies and eighties to me. For his information the beach was many feet below the sea wall due to erosion, and in bad storms groynes were often damaged and in many cases destroyed completely. Indeed, new piling was often abandoned due to remnants of old groynes being struck and the sheet piling was regularly undermined by the ferocity of the sea.

He might be interested to know that we measured waves of nearly 30ft one mile off, opposite the Martello Tower.

I wrote the news release for the hole discovered along the promenade near Edinburgh Road, which I described as big enough to lose a mini. Further investigation showed that it was the size of a double decker bus. Had money been available, Southern Water could no doubt have dug up the promenade and discovered a few more holes... 

The benefit of the current beach is that the strength of the waves is dissipated by the large shingle bank. Has Mr Grumpy forgotten how the sea spray reached the roofs of the properties along the esplanade? I worked in Seaford during that time and some of my colleagues lived in the flats. On several occasions they couldn't get in until we cleared the shingle from the doors. The flats were often damp and the windows were covered in chicken wire to keep out the stones.

When Southern Water took over, we were inundated by people claiming for cut feet from splintered piles and rusting sheet piling and conservationists decrying the use of hard woods from the rain forests being used for groynes. Apart from the fact that the fishing was better, (you could fish off the wall at high tide), the present beach has got to be safer for those residents with property in the area.

As for the anti-Norman brigade I am sure the EA would put more money into Seaford if property was flooded regularly or lives were at risk. The EA can only spend money when the benefits of a scheme outweigh the costs. We shouldn't forget those residents living near rivers and the sea whose property was flooded recently and their lives were at risk. Surely Mr Grumpy these areas must take priority?

I have presented Mr Skinner with all the facts and the histories of Seaford frontage on several occasions, but for his own reasons he chooses to ignore them.

Graham Amy.


I don't profess to be an expert on marine erosion, but I have to agree with many of points made, regarding the success of the approach that the Environment Agency currently adopts.

I remember the effect of the 1987 Hurricane on the beach and also the fact that a few days later, the miraculous re-emergence of the shingle, as the long-shore drift brought the majority back up the beach. The shingle saved Seaford from flooding that night and has done so many times since.

Groynes may be the way forward, and equally, they may not be. I think they would help, but like I said, I'm no expert.

I've heard many suggestions such as reefs formed of sunken concrete-filled tyres, or sinking a ship in the bay also mentioned before, and these may seem as wacky as demolishing the Breakwater at Newhaven. After all, the shingle released there would still roll past the beach at Seaford, as it does now and the protection it gives to Newhaven Harbour would similarly be lost, along with the opportunities for economic regeneration for the town and surrounding district.

Seaford should be grateful for the fact that the EA does not look at repeating the option for the Cuckmere estuary and abandon it to the sea.

The present methodology of manouvering the shingle from one end to the other may not be the cheapest long term, but it does work.

Talking of work, this brings me on to the points raised about our MP Norman Baker. I think you'd find it extremely difficult to find a harder working Member of Parliament. He has represented the Lewes Constituency for over 16 years. His hard work was rewarded in 2010, with a ministerial appointment in the Transport Office, and earlier this year his talents were further recognised, by a re-shuffle to the Home Office. During all this time he has not stopped working hard for his constituents, holding regular surgeries to help local people, where he personally discusses residents' problems and never turns anyone away. He lives in a modest house in Lewes, not in a swanky flat in London, or a mansion in the country, surrounded by lakes and duck houses. Indeed, it was he that fought so hard to expose the expenses scandal surrounding MPs. It maybe the tenacity he showed over this issue, to expose the truth, together with his successes as a Transport Minister, that made him a trusted candidate to keep an eye on things at the Home Office. I fail to see what local issues have been ignored by our MP since his appointment as a Minister. For instance, he fully supported the cry for saving the Health Centre in Seaford earlier this year.

It may be that in 2015 his majority will be cut, that remains to be seen, but I doubt it will be, because of a strong Tory alternative. UKIP supporters seem to be the likely cause. Though for the life of me, I fail to see why. The last local election saw several of their number voted into office. Some were made up by defecting Tory Councillors, worried about losing their £10,000 allowance, others who did not even know what council they were running for and one who, it was alleged, was not sure if he could remain as a Councillor following his election.

Mr. Farage has today split his party by changing his stance on immigration, to allow Christians from Syria into the UK, but not Romanians and Bulgarians, because only a few months ago, we were allegedly too full up.

The local Councillors will no doubt have little to say on this and any local issues like Seaford beach. To my knowledge they have championed nothing to date at County after being elected, following their scaremongering campaign on keeping out unwanted economic migrants.

Maybe as County Councillors they should try campaigning on local issues that they can affect, like the local transport and education, as well as some constructive comments on Seaford Beach

Steve Saunders



I do not know Mr. Swaysland, but as someone who worked for Southern Water on the Seaford beach scheme he is correct on virtually everything he says.

Prior to 1987 the sea wall was breached on numerous occasions and numerous scientific tests and experiments were carried out prior to 1987 to look at the best method to protect Seaford.

If memory serves me correctly the £12-13million was a huge sum - about a third of England's sea defence budget at that time. The idea was to protect the sea wall at Edinburgh Road with rocks, because a huge void had occurred under the promenade, and then seed the beach with one million cubic metres of beach dredged from the Owers Bank. One million pounds was set aside from the sum to recycle the shingle each winter. I am not sure how much it costs today, but I am sure it does not cost £1million per year.

Had more money been available, Southern Water would have built up the now hidden Buckle groyne to the height of the Splashpoint groyne/outfall. This is because the shingle movement roughly divides in that area, accreting westwards towards the East Pier,or eastwards against the Splashpoint groyne.

We also looked at the creation of offshore rock islands, but even in 1996 the cost was at least four times the cost of the recycling shingle scheme.

Remember the reason the Seaford scheme got the go ahead was because the cost of the potential damage to property was greater than the cost of the scheme.

It was a huge scheme at that time and I think we must be realistic; storms alter the profile of shingle beaches and the EA cannot be expected to re-grade beaches as and when we feel like it. The beach is there primarily for sea defence purposes.

The scheme was given a life span of 25-30 years and given the erratic weather patterns of recent years can be considered a success.

I have the original history and data regarding the reasons for the scheme if anyone is interested.

Graham Amy.


What R Beckett has failed to understand is that the on-shore drift along the south coast is West to East, therefore there is no danger of the shingle travelling the other way. This is why the so-called Tonka toys have to collect the shingle from Splash Point and take it back to the Buckle twice each year.

Seaford residents really have two choices....accept that the beach is a sea defence, not a local amenity, or allow the beach to become an amenity and watch the new McCarthy and Stone old peoples home get washed away in the first storm..... Actually, not a bad idea.

Reg Dove


Is it about time we all stopped the name-calling and accusations and addressed some of the “facts” about Seaford Beach? I think it is!

To start with, Seaford has always enjoyed a mixed relationship with the sea: both friend and foe. Along with many stretches of the south coast, Seaford had what was thought to be a substantial offshore shingle bank, although modern research suggests it’s a lot less substantial than was originally imagined. Shingle is important because it’s one of the best materials to deal with the massive forces in the currents and waves which hit our seashore.

The traditional view was that the shingle bank and the shingle beaches protected the shoreline – occasionally the power in the sea was so great that the beach was overtopped, but one of the other advantages of shingle is that it allows the water to drain back into the sea. Our forefathers lived with this cycle and did very little, other than allowing the development of a reasonably sized flood plain just inland, and supported the beach with low tech hurdle fences.

Then the “modern” Victorians arrived and the trouble started! Two of their grand ideas to conquer the natural world had profound effects on the beaches of Tide Mills and Seaford. In no order of importance, the first was the construction of the western arm of Newhaven Harbour: this had the effect of blocking the natural west-east flow of shingle along the coast line. Rather than being washed onto the beach at Seaford, the shingle was deposited on the western side of the new harbour arm, and in so doing it created a new beach for the new haven. Reports at the time recorded that the beach level at Seaford dropped 10 feet between 1900 and 1945, and the low water line moved 200 yards inshore. It was also noted that the distance between the brick garden wall of the former Splash Point Hotel and the cliff edge was 150 feet in 1872 but only eight feet in 1946.

The second grand idea was the building of the Seaford Sea Wall: initially a response to the Great Flood of 1875, it was turned into a development opportunity by the Victorian entrepreneurs! The trouble is, with hindsight, the marine and civil engineers have concluded the sea wall was built in the wrong place; to the wrong design and of the wrong material! With such a pedigree it should be of no surprise that the sea wall regularly failed, with large sections being undermined and washed away. The engineers did their best to patch it up, even moving the length between Dane Road and Edinburgh Road several yards inshore, but many local residents can still describe seeing sections of the sea wall collapsed after a storm. To make matters worse, the flood plain was built on and the natural drainage opportunities reduced.

An important decision was taken in the mid-1980s when various alternative schemes for protecting Seaford were considered: without going into the detail, the raised shingle beach option was selected and implemented. It was always recognised that there would need to be constant and substantial maintenance at least twice a year and that the shingle levels would need to be topped up with additional imported shingle from time to time. Apart from the occasion when the contractor went into administration, that has happened.

Now to the controversial issue of groynes! The sad fact is that the profile of our beach is not suitable for groynes – that’s not quite true, if the 1987 sewer outfall at Splash Point can be regarded as a groyne, then they can be built, but do we really want (to say nothing of “can we afford” four of five such structures) along the beach? The records show that for five of six decades various designs for groynes were tried along Seaford seafront, using different materials, wood, iron and steel and concrete, but none worked satisfactorily and all were more or less destroyed by the force of the sea. In this respect we are not alone: as a Brighton schoolboy I used to spend many happy summer days on the beach, sheltering behind the groynes, but has anyone noticed that the groynes have more or less entirely disappeared from Brighton as well?

The Environment Agency may not appear to be the most user friendly organisation, and some of their decisions may be out of favour with local opinion, but the fact remains that their commitment to maintaining the sea defences at Seaford appears to be of the highest order, and should be commended.

A final observation is that in the past an earlier Seaford Council sold licenses to local builders to remove shingle from the beach for construction purposes, whilst at the same time complaining that the sea defences were too weak! But to avoid misunderstandings, that was nothing to do with our current Seaford Town Council!

David Swaysland


Putting aside the “what could have and should or shouldn’t have” of politics, can anybody define exactly how much has been spent in total over the years in, importing and placing the large rocks as the base for the rejuvenation of Seaford beach, followed by the cost of importing and pumping in the shingle which covered the rocks and then added to the annual cost over 26 years, of moving the shingle back eastwards by the so-called “Tonka Toys”.

My understanding is that the cost of importing the original rocks (from Spain?), then pumping in the shingle cost nine million pounds and the cost of moving the shingle back are around one million pounds per annum. This is a total of some thirty five million pounds since 1987.

Whatever this total cost is, it will almost certainly have far exceeded the cost of constructing a “wall” several hundred metres off-shore curving from splash point westwards to leave an entry to Newhaven harbour. If this has been constructed it would have solved the two main problems. Primarily it would have “dampened” the surge of incoming waves with the threat of flooding and secondly it would have decreased, or more probably, removed the ever-present circular tidal flow which moves the shingle eastward. Such a wall was successfully constructed to form Brighton Marina where there was no bay to protect so why not across Seaford Bay?

As for the comment by David S to “demolish the western arm at Newhaven and let the shingle revert to its original route and end up on Seaford Beach” that would not stop the shingle moving westward towards Newhaven. Without the Newhaven Harbour arm as a deterrent the shingle would drift even further west and probably end up under the cliffs at Peacehaven. In the process it would disappear from Seaford Beach anyway, probably block the river mouth at Newhaven and result in the river mouth diverting towards Seaford (as actually happened several hundred years ago).

R. Beckett


In response to "Mr Grumpy", I have no wish to comment on what I believe are the Environment Agency's responsibilities for Seaford flood defences.

But the latter section, alleging we have an "unelected government", is such nonsense it cannot go unanswered. What we don't have, following the 2010 General Election, is a single-party government . Instead we have a government composed of two parties, who between them achieved the support of almost 60% of voters (Conservatives 36.1%; Liberal Democrats 23.0%). Never before in my lifetime have we had such majority support for a government - previously, it has been common for the so-called winners to have achieved only something like 40% support (or six voters in ten wanting someone else).

The common purpose of the two parties is to get Britain's economy back on an even keel after the mess left both by the recklessness of the previous government and by the worldwide recession: not an easy task, nor necessarily a popular one. But they are making significant progress. The deficit is down, there are more people in work than ever before, and public finances are beginning to recover.

Norman Baker is no 'poor little rich boy' and has never sought to be part of a 'cosy club', either when he led Lewes District Council or since his election in 1997 as our MP. In this Parliament he has made a significant contribution to other aspects of the government's work - firstly as a highly successful transport minister, and now with a new challenge to bring Liberal influence to a largely authoritarian Home Office. He deserves the continuing support of all local residents, not childish sniping from Marine Drive!

David Rogers


Could it be that the beach did its job, and that maybe the engineers (and not the local naysayers) who designed the original scheme in 1985/86 got it right when they abandonned the idea of groynes? Seaford hasn't flooded since, despite the 1987 "great storm" and several other lesser ones since. Rather than constantly knocking the Environment Agency over its treatment of Seaford Beach perhaps its time to acknowledge the official commitment to maintaining the safety of Seaford's sea defences.

The real answer of course might be to demolish the western arm at Newhaven and let the shingle revert to its original route and end up on Seaford Beach where it rightfully belongs!

David S


I am shocked!

We have always backed Norman Baker. But if he can't be bothered to help the people of Seaford why should we be bothered to back him next time he wants our vote.

Ann Hood
Angry resident


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