Worthing seafront’s wooden groynes could be replaced with rock alternatives as part of council plans to improve the town’s flood defences.
The preferred scheme could cost in the region of £46million although the majority of this would be funded by the Environment Agency, according to Worthing Borough Council officers.
The council’s joint strategic committee agreed to £300,000 to help fund modelling and design work for future flood defences on Thursday night (November 7).
However Labour councillor Jim Deen raised concerns about the loss of the timber groynes.
He said: “I’m stunned this is not being made more widely known to the public and there has been no public consultation.”
After the meeting, he added: “The wooden groynes have been a feature of Worthing’s beach for 150 years or more and are part of the character and heritage of the beach. To replace them with groynes made of piles of rocks will completely change the appearance and character of the beach and will have a serious impact on the way people are able to use the beach.
“The decision seems to have been made as a cost-saving exercise, although the figures presented at the meeting only presented the cost of replacing the wooden groynes with stones and gave no figure for the comparative cost of keeping the wooden groynes.
“I can understand why rock groynes might be used effectively at certain critical points along the coast such as Splash Point and by the Sea Lane café in Goring, but surely not along the main seafront to the town. No evidence has been presented that the problem of erosion of the beach along Worthing seafront is so significant that this extreme measure has to be taken.”
Officers described how replacing the wooden structures with timber instead of rock would reduce the sustainability of the scheme and would significantly increase the cost to the council.
This is because the timber groynes have a shorter life span and would require extra maintenance and would need to be replaced much earlier.
But Cllr Deen felt there was a ‘desirability’ to retain wooden structures on the seafront in the middle of a coastal town.
He also described being concerned at the level of information included in the officers’ report.
Officers said their business case had considered lots of information before arriving at the preferred option of rock groynes.
The meeting was told: “Consultation with the public, that has not happened at this stage as this is a report looking into the funding structure.”
However the report said during the development of the full business case, council officers would be talking to residents, groups, stakeholders and statutory consultees.
Neil Parkin, leader of Adur District Council, pointed out that Shoreham had rock groynes, while Worthing’s executive member for resources Elizabeth Sparkes had seen rock groynes on beaches elsewhere that ‘look very nice’.
As well as replacing the ‘deteriorating’ timber groynes the council is also proposing shingle replenishment works.
The River Arun to Adur Flood and Erosion Management Strategy, approved in 2011, states the approximate number of properties at risk of flooding and erosion in Worthing would be 2,030 in 100 years’ time if defences are not maintained.
What do you think? Email your thoughts to our letters page.