LETTER: Time to bring in traffic experts

Sarah Sharp is wrong. There was no week-long seminar of experts that led to a Peninsula-wide plan which included the Medmerry re-alignment.

The Medmerry scheme was devised by the Environment Agency (EA) in consultation with Chichester District Council (CDC) as part of the East Head to Pagham Harbour Coastal Defence Strategy. The proposal was made public in autumn 2006 and it caused huge concern across the Manhood Peninsula, and led to the creation of groups such as Save Our Selsey to fight the scheme. As a result, the well-regarded and internationally-recognised Manhood Peninsula Partnership (MPP) suggested that it should revive its earlier Going Dutch project, and invite coastal, infrastructure, and planning experts from the Netherlands and UK to examine the EA’s proposal – and to consider alternative proposals from the community.

The EA welcomed the plan, and in June, 2008, 22 Dutch experts and their UK counterparts assembled at Earnley Concourse for a three-day intensive workshop (Going Dutch ll) to analyse at all the proposals in depth.

After working 12-15 hours a day, the group held a public meeting on the third evening- and gave the EA’s scheme the thumbs-up. The project was completed in autumn 2013.

Not only has it proved to be a most effective coast defence scheme, it has proved to be a spectacularly successful wildlife and environmental asset. The Peninsula-wide scheme Sarah refers to is CDC’s successful £450,000 bid for government funding as part of the Coastal Change Pathfinder project in 2010-11.

At CDC’s request, the Manhood Peninsula Partnership led the project, which delivered a number of small community inspired projects across the Peninsula, provided a new public slipway at East Beach, Selsey and set up a Destination Management Plan study to assist with economic development and tourism on the Peninsula.

It also drew-up the Towards Inter-Coastal Zone Management on the Manhood Peninsula study. Published in 2011, this has now been adopted as a material consideration by CDC as the local planning authority.

Finally, it created a Coastal Literacy programme to enable the community to be aware of, and understand how to deal with, the threat of coastal flooding and erosion, and other environmental dangers.

This is now considered to be an exemplar of, and blueprint for, the best way for statutory authorities and agencies to engage and communicate with communities faced with these issues. As West Sussex County Council is, like CDC, a member of MPP, Louise Goldsmith would have been well aware of the work of the Partnership; and I suspect that this will have been in her mind when she proposed the series of community workshops on the issues that face us over the A27.

After all, the so-called north-south divide debate is no worse than the anti-Medmerry scheme debate some ten years earlier.

Louise is right. Let us get together as one community, and come up with imaginative schemes. There will have to be give and take and compromise will be the watchword. When we’ve come up with a scheme that we think all of us can live with we should call in independent traffic experts to assess the proposal. If that means inviting European experts then so be it. After all, a traffic expert from the EU is just that – a traffic expert –even if they do drive on the wrong side of the road!

John Connor

Chichester District councillor Selsey North ward

Merryfield Drive

Selsey