Pagham in West Sussex has seen the growth of a coastal spit in recent years which has led to increased erosion of the beach and subsequent risk of erosion and flooding to nearby properties.
Natural England recognises the problems posed by the coastal erosion at Pagham and is committed to helping the community, the parish council and Arun District Council (DC) to reduce the erosion risk to people’s homes. Arun DC, the local authority, has undertaken defence works to protect these properties and Natural England has worked closely with the local community and parish council over several years to advise on the environmental impacts of different options.
This stretch of coast is one of the most important in Europe for wildlife, providing habitat for breeding and overwintering birds, aquatic creatures and is one of the best examples in the country of a dynamic coast. This means the area has a number of protections under environmental law. Natural England’s statutory role is to provide advice, so that any impacts on this special wildlife are considered during the planning process.
We’ve been working with the community’s representatives, their consultants, the local authorities and Environment Agency on identifying a solution to the erosion and advising how this would affect the special wildlife of the area. The option preferred by the local community is to cut a channel through the spit to decrease erosion at Pagham beach and their planning application is now being considered by the planning authorities (Arun DC, Chichester DC and the Marine Management Organisation). We’ve advised the planning authorities on the steps they should take in relation to the environment before reaching a legally-robust decision. Our official letter of advice, although providing sound information, lacked the degree of clarity we aim for and we are now taking steps to address this and we’ll reissue the letter shortly. It’s important to stress that our advice doesn’t object to or reject the proposal or seek to prevent the proposal going ahead – it’s aimed at ensuring that the consequences for the natural environment are properly considered by the planning authorities in reaching their decision.
Our desire is to help achieve the best long-term outcome for the local community and the unique environment of Pagham. In the interim we’ve continued to give consent to beach management works requested by Arun DC to reduce the erosion risk to the properties in the short term.