How do we build the sea defences we all need?

THERE are conflicting views on what sea defences really Weston needs. Defra wants a scheme that will withstand a storm of such intensity that we are likely to experience it only once in the next 200 years. That will be some storm! So the question arises,

THERE are conflicting views on what sea defences really Weston needs. Defra wants a scheme that will withstand a storm of such intensity that we are likely to experience it only once in the next 200 years. That will be some storm!So the question arises, how best do we build the sea defences that all agree we need? The rise of calm seas on September 9 last shows that a simple rise in tide levels could be dealt with merely by raising the existing sea wall, which, by masonry or handrail, needs to be 1100mm high for health and safety reasons anyway. Accordingly, the critical issue is the ability of future storms to drive waves over the existing sea wall. Overtopping is the accepted phrase and the reason underlying the 'splash wall' now proposed. Yet, given that waves already reach the upper windows of the Cabot Bar, once almost every decade, a one-in-200-year storm will clearly engulf the monstrous five foot splash wall contained in the current proposal.Developer Jim Scott proposed a barrage across Weston Bay. Martin Wools, master of the Bristol Queen and probably Weston's most knowledgeable resident on this subject, thinks Knightstone harbour should be developed to defend the land out at sea, whilst encouraging the revival of tourism. I think he has a point. It deserves careful consideration.Meanwhile John Crockford-Hawley tells us we cannot use Defra's money to enhance the town's economy. Yet apparently he plans to use the town's money to enhance Defra's basic defence scheme so that it enhances the townscape. Forgive me, I am not quite sure what the practical difference is there.John Crockford-Hawley studiously ignores the alternate practical design submitted to the appointed engineers last July. That design involved a sectional mobile wall that could be deployed hydraulically out of subterranean caissons set in the promenade. Installation would be a lot simpler than the fixed engineering works that John Crockford-Hawley now envisages. The scheme could have been delivered within the existing budget.As Robert Craig pointed out earlier this year, what we have now is democracy bypassed. And Knightstone itself? It lies outside any of the new sea defences. Abandon hope all ye who enter there.JULIAN PARRYVictoria Park, Weston


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