The Environment Agency manages the sea defences along our coast. Several years ago the standard of defence was studied by consultants Halcrow and several weak areas were identified locally.
A plan was developed to raise the standard of protection for 390 properties and some 600 hectares of farmland, so that only a storm expected once in 200 years might cause significant flooding. This plan took into consideration the wildlife and geomorphological value of much of the area.
The major works included:
- Strengthen the terminal groyne at the river mouth. See picture
- Build a new steel groyne, 220m west of the terminal groyne, to create an extraction pocket. See picture
- Recycle more shingle each winter. See picture
- Construct new groyne fields in front of Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach villages. See picture
- Construct a 3km embankment to act as a secondary sea defence, through Rye Harbour farm. See picture
- Raise the level of the river flood wall from Rye Harbour to Rye.
These works would cause damage to some areas of shingle designated under the EU Habitats Directive, so compensation areas were identified on Rye Harbour Farm. Material to build the new embankment was excavated from Rye Harbour Farm. So, in 2003 much of the farm was bought by the Environment Agency.
In planning the works there was considerable consultation with English Nature to ensure a minimum damage of the surviving shingle features and a maximum potential for the creation of habitats and suitable public access in the future.
The engineering works above have been completed by Team Van Oord Ltd:
- Groyne fields at Winchelsea Beach and Pett Level village.
- Completion of the new embankment.
- Completion of a 500m long gabion wall adjacent to the haul road.
The conservation works have been completed by Halcrow, Environment Agency and the Nature Reserve:
- Fencing and establishing grazing.
- Providing improved public access and viewing facilities.
- Restoration of shingle habitats.
- Potential for re-creation of saltmarsh habitat.
This project, when completed, will provide a much improved level of sea defence, an improved wildlife area and better facilities for the quiet enjoyment of the area and its special wildlife.