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Date published: 24th April 2019
North Norfolk District Council is aware of further concerns in the last few days about the protective netting at Bacton, which is a key part of delivering the Bacton to Walcott Sandscaping Scheme.
The balance between delivery of this major coastal defence project and the need to encourage sand martins to nest in the higher levels of the cliff at Bacton is a delicate one, which has been achieved by the Council responding positively to previous concerns through the removal of protective netting from the upper levels of the cliff, so that sand martins have alternative nesting sites in the immediate area above those parts of the beach and cliff which it is proposed will be covered with sand in the coming weeks.
The amount of protective netting has now been reduced to a minimum whilst still ensuring this critical major defence project can proceed, which will save homes and businesses into the future. It is critical to the success of the project, which will see large volumes of sand brought in by sea, via ship and pipes, that the works take place in the summer months. At other times of the year this would be far more hazardous and significantly more expensive because of sea conditions and the weather.
The Council is aware that some people have commented that a geotextile product should be used in place of protective netting. However, the Council has received specialist environmental advice which raises a number of concerns over the use of such a product - including its suppression of ground cover (flora) on the cliffs; its potential smothering of invertebrates; and the risk of the wind getting behind or under the product, such that it could become detached and present a risk to animals, birds and marine life, if it were to blow on to the beach and into the sea.
It is also important to note that, despite reports to the contrary, the protective netting used is a proprietary product designed for the current purpose.
The volumes of sand to be placed in front of Bacton will be significant, raising the beach level by an average of 4 to 5 metres above existing levels, meaning that some historic nest burrow sites will be covered in sand and those on the lower levels could be disturbed by operations.
The Council's contractors are undertaking inspections and monitoring of the preventative measures three times a day and the Council also has specialist ecological advisors as part of the project management team to advise on nature conservation issues throughout the period of the works contract.
The scheme is being progressed with all statutory consents in place (obtained last autumn) and following extensive technical studies and engagement with the local community and key stakeholder organisations.
North Norfolk District Council is committed to conserving and improving biodiversity wherever possible – and in the context of Bacton, documented environmental advice has stated that the raised beach levels post-Sandscaping could provide improved habitat for species such as the Little Tern, which is on the UK amber list. If this occurs the Council has committed to investigate and deliver appropriate conservation management.
North Norfolk District Council has developed the Sandscaping Scheme in response to devastating storm surge events of 2013 and 2017, which severely damaged the low lying communities of Bacton and Walcott. These major events were in addition to a number of events of a lesser scale, but still significant in terms of causing uncertainty amongst local people and businesses and of a scale which required emergency protection and evacuation procedures to be put in place.
The Sandscaping Scheme will provide protection to 300 homes in Bacton and Walcott, and critical gas infrastructure at the Bacton Gas Terminal, as well as ensuring in the medium term a biodiversity net gain through an expanded area of non-tidal beach attractive to species such as nesting Little Tern.
Further details of the Bacton to Walcott Coastal Management (Sandscaping) Scheme can be seen at this link:
Last updated: 24th April 2019