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Eastchurch Gap Erosion Action Group fear beach will be swept away

Time is running out to save Sheppey’s crumbling coastline, say campaigners.

Malcolm Newell, who spearheads the Eastchurch Gap Erosion Action Group, says £30,000 of work already completed to stabilise the top of the cliffs is in danger of being destroyed by the sea.

He has called on the Environment Agency to renew stolen timber groynes to stop the beach being swept away at the bottom.

Contractors putting in netting to prevent cliff erosion
Contractors putting in netting to prevent cliff erosion

He said: “The Environment Agency insists on a non-intervention policy for this stretch of coastline. But acres of farmland have already been swallowed by the sea.

“I am sick to the back teeth of everyone passing the buck.

"Something must be done to save our cliffs. We need action now, not tomorrow, otherwise there won’t be anything left to protect.”

Volunteers have even offered to renew the four groynes themselves, which they say would cost £60,000.

Their plea comes as the Environment Agency is in the middle of reviewing its Kent coastline strategy.

A public exhibition will be held at Eastchurch Village Hall next Thursday from 3pm to 7pm.

Mr Newell, who lives in Surf Crescent, near the edge of the cliffs, said: “It is vital as many people as possible attend to help support our case.”

Campaigner Malcolm Newell
Campaigner Malcolm Newell

According to Swale council, two men were caught taking away timber breakwaters in February 2015.

They were warned police would be called if any further thefts happened.

The groynes were installed in 1962 to create a beach for caravan park residents. Over the years the remaining ones have become buried by pebbles.

Cllr Andrew Bowles, leader of Swale council, has written to Mr Newell, saying: “Any applications for coastal scheme funding has to be made to Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) via the Environment Agency.

"With the current shoreline management plan for this area as no active intervention, such an application would not be successful.”

In April 2016 Swale council paid to lay netting on the top of the cliffs to encourage grass and plants to bind the earth.

Peter MacDonald of Minster Parish Council has set up a fighting fund to put together a plan of action, and farmer Stephen Attwood has also devised a multi-million pound scheme to revamp cliffs from Minster to Warden Point, involving extending the promenade and creating a country park.

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