Cuckmere community calls for restoration of meanders

Cuckmere meanders (picture by Vivienne Blakey) The meeting called for Cuckmere meanders to be rejoined to the river (picture by Vivienne Blakey)

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Members of the community have called for the existing flood defences to be maintained at an East Sussex beauty spot threatened by flooding.

More than 120 people attended a public meeting to come up with a preferred option for Cuckmere Valley.

They also called for the meanders to be re-attached to the Cuckmere River.

It was the result of a year-long project by East Sussex County Council set up after the Environment Agency decided to stop maintaining defences.

The agency said it could no longer justify spending the £18m it would cost over the next 100 years to maintain the existing landscape.

Seven options

If nothing is done Cuckmere Valley will revert to a natural salt marsh over 50 years.

The RSPB is among wildlife organisations which support a phased restoration of the natural Cuckmere estuary to provide a salt marsh and mudflat habitat, but many residents opposed the plan.

The meeting, at Alfriston Memorial Hall, considered seven options including accepting the Environment Agency's scenario and maintaining the existing defences.

Others included the partial or full breaching of the embankments.

A county council spokeswoman said the option favoured by the community was to maintain the existing defences in the short term while further research, fundraising and development into restoring the meanders took place.

Cuckmere beach view Cuckmere Valley and the beach is visited by 450,000 residents and tourists every year

There was "considerable interest" in restoring and reactivating water flow to the meanders as the medium to long term solution.

The county council received £250,000 from the government to fund the Pathfinder Project.

It has said it will use the community's decision as the basis for its future planning and undertake further research, including costings.

A community group, Friends of the Cuckmere, is being set up, which may be the best forum to take the work forward, it added.

"Our next step will be to take the community's decision back to the council for formal ratification," said spokesman Andy Robertson.

"People care passionately and deeply about the Cuckmere, and it was clear that the meanders are felt to be a particularly important feature.

"Through the Pathfinder Project I believe we have arrived at a consensus.

"I am enormously grateful to all those who have taken part."

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