Minsmere Levels Stakeholders Group
Annual Report for the year 2017-2018.
This has been a year of some frustration. Given that our current pre-occupation is the proposal to construct the new Sizewell C power station, we had hoped to be able by now to report more fully on the likely impact of this massive development on the Minsmere Levels, the Sizewell Marshes and their coastal frontage. Sadly we know little more about what EDF Energy’s plans hold in store for this very fragile and vulnerable environment than we did five years ago when we responded to Stage One of the statutory consultation.
Stage Two, to which we responded in February 2017, told us virtually nothing additional apart from removing some accommodation campus options. Our attempts, with the Suffolk Coast Against Retreat group, to instigate some dialogue on coastal processes and the potential effects of jetties/beach landing facility with EDF prior to the final Stage Three consultation, which looks likely to start in January 2019, seems to have come to nothing.
We are thus confronted with the quite unacceptable prospect of having to digest and respond to a mountain of technical information within a very short time frame. This will gives us little opportunity to seek the expert advice which a comprehensive response from MLSG will require.
Prior to Stage Three, Sizewell C has to be evaluated once again for inclusion into a new list of suitable sites for New Nuclear that will be able to start generating before end 2035. This is because the current legislation only enables new stations that will be generating by end of 2025. There will be a public consultation on the new list in the autumn of 2018 which we will be evaluating and responding to.
The one encouraging development has been the contact we have made with the BLUEcoast project of Liverpool and Plymouth Universities which, with the British Geological Survey, is investigating the storm response and recovery behaviour of the Minsmere Coastline. A radar installation has been set up on the Dunwich Cliffs to monitor the effects of tide and storm surges on the Minsmere and Sizewell coastal frontages. Additional work is being undertaken to examine the sensitivity of inland water within the Levels to climate change and sea level rise. We hope that one outcome of this work will be to arm us with evidence and data to challenge EDF’s own projections of impact of its development both during the construction phase and over the long term. The predominance of strong easterly winds over recent months should give a good picture of how our coast has been responding to these very challenging weather conditions.
Paul Collins and John Rea Price took a damp walk against a strong south westerly wind along the beach from the Coastguard Cottages to the sluice on Tuesday 27 March in order to get an impression of how the coastal frontage had been standing up to the battering that has resulted in so much erosion in Hemsby and elsewhere in Norfolk.. We found that there had been a good deal of scouring of the beach which now has a great deal of sand overlaying the shingle. In the northern sector facing onto the North Marsh a good section of the sand dunes have disappeared and what until the storm surges of 2007 and 2008 had been the main path past the RSPB hides to the sluice was now almost entirely filed with shingle. There was some evidence of overtopping by the sea of the North Marsh wall; however there had only been limited deterioration of the situation that had resulted from the events of 2007 and 2008.
Of more concern was new damage to the dunes in the southern sector fronting onto the RSPB Scrape which, unlike the North Marsh is not slated for abandonment. Here there was very clear evidence of the sea cutting into, and scouring, the long established grass topped dunes. Around 50 metres to the north and south of the sluice itself there was a quite significant build up and rearrangement of shingle.
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John Rea Price and Paul Collins
30 March 2018