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Havant Borough Council must not leave the west of Hayling Island at the mercy of the sea whilst it develops a new strategy. The council must put in place interim measures to stabilise the situation at West Beachlands before it becomes irreversibly destroyed as a direct result of current HBC's "do nothing" policy

The council will say its working on a new strategic defence but fruition is many years away, most certainly more years than the strategy’s development time of 2 years. In the meantime, we remain vulnerable to the ravages of increasingly ferocious storms and the erosion and flooding they bring to our shores.  The council must surely consider short term defences to avert the permanent destruction of West Beachlands, the planned relocation of the Inn on the Beach, the effects of serious consequential erosion along the seafront and the blight that residential/business may suffer from flooding. Waiting for the council’s strategic coastal protection plan to be realised cannot be an option for us. This is serious and it's serious right now! If you need convincing read on ...the council is inadequately defending us and here’s why.  The last 4 winters have had a lot more named winter storms at 11, 5, 10 and 8 respectively this winter we have had just 4! - the destruction is not all about bad weather its about policy! Had Ciara and Dennis from this winter coincided with 5m tides or more then we would be having very different conversations locally because an extra half a metre or more on the tide may well have seen homes affected. We were just fortunate all the bad stuff was not aligned (again)

In case you did not know, Havant Borough Council's (HBC) current coastal protection policy is 100% NOT to defend West Beachlands from the sea; it claims it has no money to do this. The council says it is about to start work on a new 100-year strategy for coastal defence! If we wait for HBC to deliver their "strategic solution" the situation on the whole of Hayling's seafront could easily and significantly worsen which will be very damaging indeed to our homes businesses and the local economy. The council knew they were going to have to remove sea defences nearly a decade ago when they withdrew the maintenance budget so why have they "just woken" up to the fact there is a significant strategic problem to solve?

Several years ago HBC removed a large section of sea defences adjacent to the golf club at eye-watering cost to the taxpayer because it withdrew maintenance; the structures rotted and fell apart and ultimately became a safety hazard. Subsequent erosion after their removal occurred at a rate close to 15X faster than what council engineers predicted. The devastation caused by those decisions can clearly be seen today - we now have no West Beachands car park at the Blue Flag beach and all this just a few months before the summer bathing season starts. We appear to have no site anymore for the lucrative Kitesurfing festival, local businesses like the Inn on the Beach will inevitably be removed (as planned by HBC) and we have two golf courses suffering persistent seawater flooding. Hayling Island earns the bulk of the £190M HBC says the local economy gets from tourism. Hayling is a watersports venue of national importance and we now have the Ferry Road as well as the significant residential housing to the north threatened by seawater.  And yet, HBC cannot seem to be able to justify and/or secure funding for appropriate defences which for me is shameful.

The remaining sea defences have now finally rotted and have been structurally destroyed by a purposeful lack of maintenance and winter storms, they are no longer performing an adequate sea defence function and they present a significant health and safety concern. As per HBC’s policy, they will 100% be removed very soon along with the adjacent beach huts. The consequential beach erosion will accelerate at a similar rate to what we have seen thus far on this site; this will destroy the remaining part of West Beach, the SSSI and undermine the foundations of the Inn on the Beach; when this occurs, the council's current plan is to "relocate" the Inn on the Beach at the landowner's expense! Once the Inn on the Beach is removed the vital sea defence function it performs will be lost and the WHOLE of Hayling’s seafront will be at the mercy of the sea and it will be "re-shaped" by significant erosion. Close examination between Bound Lane and the Golf Course shows there are many homes and business that could easily be blighted by flooding and erosion in the years to come. The council has a constitutional responsibility to make a case for our protection and it's not doing that when we need it most. We already know, courtesy of Storms Brendon and Ciara that seawater got as far as the Ferry Road twice in one week! This is a residential area which requires protection!  Significant and increasing threats from the sea will be present in this area whilst HBC is trying to put its strategy to work!

The council says it will take TWO whole years to define and publish its all-new rather splendid sea defence strategy! No doubt there will be a requirement for time to secure funding for their plans, they will need to properly plan their strategic response and of course they need to construct their vision. All this may take SEVERAL YEARS to sort out and in the meantime, we will have to endure the council’s current "do nothing" strategy and await further destruction and flooding. Quite apart from that... well before the council publishes its strategic intention the destruction from erosion could easily and significantly materially change the set of problems they need to solve and they, therefore, might have to start over again which puts West Hayling in even more jeopardy! 

In addition, the council's poor strategic position not only threatens the Bue Flag beach, a landmark public house, a place of national importance for watersports and the local economy but it also its own development ambitions at the Funfair and it's “spectacular” Hayling West Beachlands regeneration project. These are surely at risk following the Environment Agency's doubling of sea-level rise estimates to 1.4m in 100 years! Yet, the council’s Local Plans seem to be steaming ahead.

The Councils grand (blue sky) aspirations for electric autonomous vehicles across a second bridge up the Billy Trail; and its aspiration to turn it into a commuter route will also be at risk because the Billy Trail is already suffering from serious erosion due to poor sea defence policy and poor maintenance. The HBC strategy is supposed to cover this trail too as I understand it so could be many years before this can be addressed either!

To summarise, this is not HBC’s finest hour. Much of Hayling will be under threat from serious erosion and coastal flooding during the time HBC says it will be redefining and implementing its strategy. Residential areas are surely almost certain to be flooded before the council puts defences in place, in fact, HBC is currently and actively removing sea defences caused by its policy which can only exacerbate the dire situation. With persistent flooding and no strategic/competent defences in place, house prices may well be blighted too. The local economy will be seriously affected, tourism will be seriously affected and the whole seafront could be damaged if the council do not act promptly. The council MUST, therefore, consider interim arrangements to defend west Hayling property and economic interests whilst it develops a strategy.

Finally, I’m not sure residents realise just how serious this is!  Yes, the council requires funding for sea defences but it is not pushing back on rejection by making a more robust case. Most councillors seem oblivious to all this - perhaps you should write them an email and ask them what they’re doing about it. Alan Mak MP seems intent on leaving it to the Council maybe email him too with your concerns, the constitution is not working well for us right now! Well, HBC knew they were removing the sea defences several years ago! It was after all part of their plan! So the current state of affairs is particularly disappointing

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