New Camber sea defence hailed at opening ceremony

Representatives from the Environment Agency, Team Van Oord and local dignitaries unveiled a plaque to mark the opening
Representatives from the Environment Agency, Team Van Oord and local dignitaries unveiled a plaque to mark the opening

A £30m sea defence stretching from Camber to Lydd was hailed as ‘absolutely fantastic’ and a huge positive for the area at its opening ceremony today (Friday, May 13).

Dignitaries, Environment Agency representatives and residents gathered at the Broomhill Sands sea defence to celebrate its official opening after two years of construction.

The multi-million pound project should protect 1,400 homes and 100 businesses for the next century along the 2km stretch from The Suttons to Lydd Ranges.

Environment Agency operations manager Ian Nunn said: “It’s fantastic [to have this completed]. It’s been more than 10 years of hard work for my teams, the teams involved and predecessors as well, so it’s really great the scheme is now completed.”

He added: “Being here today, everybody is so positive about it. It’s not just a really good sea defence and it will provide a fantastic level of protection, but it’s also a fantastic facility as well.

“We’ve seen an increase in people walking along the sea wall, the car park obviously in better condition, there’s more access to the beach so it’s all positive.”

The new defence is made up of new rock revetments shipped in from Norway, a new wave wall, increased beach shingle and new timber groynes.

It also provides a wider promenade along the top of the defence and new pedestrian access to the beach.

Cyclist Jan Walker from Rye thought the new path was ‘amazing’ and an improvement but it could use some bins and toilets to make it more user-friendly.

“Apart from that everything looks great, we’ve watched it being built for the last two years,” she said.

“It will encourage a lot of people to come and visit, as long as it’s advertised that is.

“Prior to it being built there was no way for cyclist to ride their bikes, it also joins up the millennium trail that comes from Rye.

“The border goes all the way round so it actually completes the circle for cycling, it works out well for a lot of people.”

It may be all smiles now but the construction phase did cause some disruption to Camber, none more so than the The Kitesurf Centre.

Broomhill Sands is one of the most popular beaches in the UK for kitesurfers and the centre provides lessons and equipment hire for them as well as a shop.

Instructor Rupert Cawte said it was great to have the defence completed but it has reduced their space and means they cannot surf during high tide.

But on the whole, he thought the new car park was a big improvement and hoped the business would benefit from a greater footfall, as well as the increased security provided by the defence.

Operations manager for contractors Team Van Oord, Jasper Blaauw, said they did their best to work with the kitesurfers to not be disruptive.

Mr Blaauw also said he was very proud of the scheme and the company has learned a lot from it.

Rother District Councillor Sally-Ann Hart, whose Eastern Rother ward covers Camber, believes the scheme will help to boost the village’s regeneration as she hopes the Environment Agency will address other issues such as drainage.

“I think its absolutely fantastic for Camber, obviously it’s protection for the houses but also in terms of regeneration of Camber, it’s a positive thing to do,” she said.

“It has been disruptive for people in Camber but I think they’ve managed that extremely well because they know that the outcome is going to be very positive for them.

“When you come and look at the whole design, the way they’ve used the groynes as statues and the paths, it looks good so we need to bring up Camber and make it into a great destination and living environment for both people and visitors alike.

“Because people who live in Camber love it here and they want their village to look fantastic and be safe.”

The huge defence has significantly increased the standard of protection to the area from one in 20 years to one in 200 years.

But some parts of the Romney Marsh coast remain unprotected which could be disastrous as there only needs to be one gap for the whole area to flood.

Mr Nunn said the government is committed to finishing off the whole coastline, known as the Folkstone to Cliff End Strategy, with much more money pledged to support it.

“We’ve got another four or five schemes to come over the next five to seven years,” he said.

“The next one hopefully is Lydd Ranges which is the next one along, once again, massive investment so another couple hundred million pounds at least to spend.

“Then we’ll be closing the gap, hopefully by 2022, the whole area from Hastings right the way through to Hythe should be plugged.”

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