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Date published: 8th April 2019

A North Norfolk District Council spokesman said today: “The Bacton/Walcott Coastal Management Scheme (the Bacton Sandscaping Scheme) is a highly complex project.

“It has been designed to protect hundreds of homes in Bacton and Walcott, and the critical infrastructure of Bacton Gas Terminal, for many years to come, and has been five years in the planning.

“It has been subject to full environmental impact assessment, planning permission and marine licence applications.

“We understand that the RSPB have concerns around the temporary netting element of the project and we are intending to meet with them and contractors on site to fully assess what those concerns are.

“Careful consideration of what time of year to progress was given because of the need for good weather and longer days, with the summer significantly safer for both the scheme’s success and for contractors working on the project.

“Without these works the cliff itself is at long-term risk as well as the adjoining communities and the terminal.”

Background

In the lead up to the use of temporary specialist netting on the cliffs at Bacton, there has been detailed environmental assessment of the project.

The project has followed all of the environmental legislation and the advice of professional environmental agencies.

This summer, 1.8 million cubic metres of sand will be placed on the beaches to provide robust protection to Bacton Gas Terminal, and the villages of Bacton and Walcott for a period of up to 20 years.

This will create an extra depth of sand of up to seven metres against Bacton cliff.

The netting has been strategically placed to cover the minimum area possible to ensure the project can proceed, and will be in place for the minimum period necessary.

Only un-vegetated sections of the cliff have been netted, which are the actively eroding sections. Existing sand martin nests are regularly lost through the erosion process.

The netting will temporarily restrict access for the birds for this one season and will be removed as soon as the project is complete.

There are three-times-a-day checks in place to make sure the netting remains in place and that no birds become entangled in the netting.

There are alternative sand martin nesting sites – exposed sandy cliff faces – on this frontage to the north west of the site towards Paston and Mundesley immediately to the west of the netted area.

The wider Sandscaping project has been five years in the planning (since the major storm surge event in December 2013 when a large number of homes and businesses in Bacton and Walcott were flooded and up to 10 metres of cliff in front of the gas terminal were lost) with extensive consultation across a wide range of interested parties, statutory and other stakeholders, and the local community, by way of a local liaison group.  This community engagement and liaison will continue throughout the project and beyond.

A scheme of works of this scale has to balance a number of competing issues in terms of cost, safety, efficient delivery of the scheme, and it has been concluded that the works have to be undertaken over the summer months when the weather for coastal and marine works is much better allowing safer (storms are much less likely) and faster working operations (day length longer).

Useful information

  • Sand martins are on the Green list in the RSPB’s three-category system of UK conservation importance.
  • For more information concerning the decision making process and those who were consulted during the planning stages of this project, please see our planning webpage - application reference PF/18/1533.
  • Background information about the scheme can be found here: north-norfolk.gov.uk/sandscaping
  • It has also been noted that - because of the significant extra height of the beaches created – the wider scheme could in future years create new coastal habitat for colonisation, including new potential breeding sites which could make a significant contribution to the conservation of the little tern, a species that has suffered a long term decline.

Last updated: 9th April 2019