Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie has welcomed the preliminary work taking place ready for the construction of long-awaited coastal defences in West Wittering next spring.
Over the last month 100,000 cubic metres of clay and other materials have been transported to the site, and on Friday representatives from the Environment Agency invited Mr Tyrie down to see the visible progress of the project several years in the making, thanks to a huge community effort.
Work on the defences is scheduled to start once flocks of brent geese – a protected species – have migrated from the surrounding area.
Current defences need upgrading and are not expected to last more than five years; once in place, the new defences will help protect 55 properties.
Without the scheme it is thought the number of properties at risk of flooding from high tides in Chichester Harbour could increase by more than 170 over the next 100 years.
“I’m very pleased this site has got underway after several years of problems,” said Mr Tyrie. “It is a very good example of the local community working together: the community has come up trumps.
“Here we have got things moving and I’m really pleased about that and I’d like to thank all of the local Environment Agency, Keith Martin and the people of West Wittering who put their backs into it.”
The joint £1.8 million project included input from West Wittering Parish Council and the Residents’ Association, with the community raising more than £648,000 to contribute to the works, boosted by donations from the FG Woodger Trust, the West Wittering Estate and private donations.
The rest of the money came from the EA’s national funding programme for flood and coastal management projects. The EA said it had worked closely with the community to alleviate any inconvenience to residents and had wanted to bring the materials to the site ahead of the construction to minimise the impact on the tourist trade during the spring. Three to four lorries a day have been bringing the materials to the site.
A special shore link has been constructed using recycled materials, which will be used to take the material from its base to where defences will be situated. Once the work is completed, the link will be returned to its original state.
A team of eight has been on the site over the last week; work is taking place to compact all the clay which will remain on site ready for construction, while vegetation clearance is also being done.
Mr Tyrie said: “I’m determined to do whatever I can to protect the area from Pagham to East Head. What we’ve got to remember is we are talking about people’s homes and livelihoods that need protecting.
“Next year’s funding is still provisional and it’s absolutely vital that we get agreement from the national office to make sure this project is completed.”