VOTE: Sea-defence fundraising may come to nothing

An incredible £648,605 has been raised by the community to help pay for sea defence works in West Wittering – but now the work may not go ahead.

It has been predicted the existing sea wall in the village could crumble within ten years and leave 55 homes vulnerable to flooding if new defences aren’t built.

The Environment Agency (EA) advised the West Wittering Flood Action Group last November that if £600,000 could be raised within a month, it stood a good chance of getting funding from government.

But with government cuts and so many other projects now competing for money, the future protection of homes from flooding is still not secure.

Chairman of the flood action group Keith Martin said: “We were advised there would be no government funding without a local contribution and the EA suggested £600,000 would give us a good chance of the project going ahead.

“In fact we have exceeded that, but these are strange times.”

Cllr Martin added the amount raised in just a short space of time was ‘extraordinary’.

The flood action group, residents and businesses will hope the backing of Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie to the cause will add weight to their campaign. Mr Tyrie wrote to DEFRA minister Richard Benyon on behalf of the flood action group. Around £1.4m is needed to pay for the sea defence works.

As part of the Pagham to East Head coastal defence strategy, the EA has proposed to raise the existing bank at Snow Hill Creek, which should provide protection for 55 homes from the sea for the next 50 years. It will also provide the basis for defences that will last for 100 years.

The existing sea defence wall holds back the high spring tides that occur twice a month for several days. If the wall is breached the sea would enter the centre of the village. The pumping station could also be flooded which could bring sewage into streets and homes.

It is also feared that property values will plummet if there is flooding in the village.

West Wittering county and district councillor Peter Jones said: “It is an unfortunate situation. This issue has come forward because of the coastal defence strategy. Money is available for this type of scheme but it is extremely limited.

“We are going to see more and more of this situation going forward in the years to come on the coastline throughout West Sussex unless coastal funds are available.”

Green Party candidate and West Wittering resident Adrian Mills: “We all have a growing problem with the danger of rising sea levels around the world and we here in the Witterings east and west, and the whole of the Manhood Peninsula, are facing increasing problems with beach and sea wall erosion. This is due to an increase in sea levels and increased rain levels on the downs.

“The government is currently putting £750m in to climate change or the prevention of it, maybe we should look at using that money for defences around the country?”

Cash already donated is held in a separate account by a local solicitor.