River group looks for flood defence funding

SEAFORD: Cuckmere estuary
SEAFORD: Cuckmere estuary

A group of organisations set up to safeguard the future of the iconic Cuckmere River is looking for funding to maintain the flood defences.

The Cuckmere’s Pathfinder group is also creating a detailed plan for the future management of the estuary and considering a proposal to reconnect the meanders to the river which will turn it into a tidal estuary.

Controversially in 2011 the Environment Agency stopped funding the flood defences at the Cuckmere Estuary, on the grounds Government policy prevented it from funding schemes where there was no risk to property.

Updating the public on what is proposed for the Cuckmere Estuary an East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “In June 2011 the East Sussex County Council led Pathfinder project, in which local residents worked alongside the council, landowners and other statutory bodies to come up with a preferred approach for the future of the Cuckmere Estuary, ended.

“The outcome of this was a broad consensus ‘to maintain the existing defences while reactivating the meanders was considered further’.

“Since that time, the informal partnership of organisations and individuals which emerged from Pathfinder has continued to meet regularly, most recently earlier this month (March).

“In addition, a sub group has been formed which is working towards formulating a detailed plan for the future management of Cuckmere Estuary.

“Whatever plan is agreed is likely to cost a substantial amount of money and finding sufficient funding in the current climate is a real challenge.

“While the discussions involve people with varying opinions on what should happen to the site, those involved remains committed towards making progress to ensure the best long-term outcome for Cuckmere.”

The county council explained the course of action being pursued by the Pathfinder group is a combination of two of the options - in the public vote that was held as part of Pathfinder back in 2011, Option D scored highest and Option C was the second highest.

The county council spokesperson said: “So the plan adopted was to pursue Option D (maintaining the current defences) in the short-term while further research, fund-raising and development was carried out in order in the long term to pursue Option C - carrying out engineering work to reactivate the meanders as part of a fully-functioning tidal estuary, ie – to restore them to how they were before the artificial cut was dug in the 1800s and they began to silt up.”

In a letter to the Seaford Gazette last week, Seaford resident Bob Brown said following the momentous “final” decision-making meeting held in Alfriston in June 2011, a clear majority opted to support “Option D”, to repair and maintain the valley and its flood defences as at present.