Sea at bay in Medmerry scheme

Medmerry realignment programme has been completed and the land has been 'surrendered' to the sea'Picture from the Environment Agency
Medmerry realignment programme has been completed and the land has been 'surrendered' to the sea'Picture from the Environment Agency

RESIDENTS who have spent years bowing to the mercy of the sea can at last breath a sigh of relief.

A long-running project to combat coastal flooding has been completed at Medmerry.

Dubbed the ‘largest managed realignment scheme on the open coast’, the £28m scheme is set to save hundreds of homes, caravans and businesses from flooding – by giving land back to the sea.

The Environment Agency, pioneers of the project, destroyed the existing sea wall at Medmerry to allow the sea to reclaim the land. A nature reserve has also been set inland, surrounded by 7km of new sea defences.

“We have significantly reduced the risk of coastal flooding for the residents of Selsey and other communities,” said James Humphrys, Environment Agency area manager for Solent and South Downs.

“And we have created a new environment habitat on a scale not seen before in the south east.”

The nature reserve is expected to encourage protected species and will be managed by the RSPB.

“This ambitious project is a fantastic example of how we can create habitat for threatened wildlife, benefit local communities and deliver value for money for the taxpayer,” said Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB.

Caravan parks and home-owners in Selsey, Earnley and neighbouring Bracklesham have battled against crashing waves for years and residents have been left to pick up the pieces of their water-logged homes.

In 2008, 150 caravans in Selsey were ‘left bobbing up and down like boats’ after the sea smashed through shingle banks. Despite major replenishment work each winter, the shingle banks have been breached by the sea and washed away.

Sandy Oxley and Michael Frith own land in Earnley, which lies adjacent to the realignment scheme.

“Our land is right on the boundary,” said Mr Frith.

“We hugely welcome the concept.

“I still hold reservations about the integrity and the quality of the ground. Will it hold back the sea?

“But from our point of view, as residents, you can imagine the paranoia. It is a collective concern.

“But on the whole, how can you not support such a concept. We are very lucky and the wildlife is going to be fantastic.”

Keith Martin, chairman of Earnley Parish Council, said the parish welcomed the changes.

“It’s fantastic,” said Cllr Martin. “The scheme will protect many of the houses in Earnley.”