The work on the flood defence wall along the footpath on the river bank, known as reach five, is now well underway but it is not at all clear what the bank itself is going to look like when the work is completed.
Since November I have had numerous telephone conversations and exchanges of emails with Environment Agency managers, the council planning officer and councillors but still cannot get any definitive answers to a number of questions.
Specifically, is the Environment Agency still taking overall responsibility for the final appearance of the bank along its entire length as they initially promised that they would?
Are they going to landscape the bank, re-plant it attractively and return the lizards and other wildlife as they promised?
This ought to be a simple enough matter to resolve but the responses I have received have always been conditional and evasive.
What I and others fear is that the wall will be built, a few plants will be put in and the site will be left largely as a barren strip of mud. Since the public footpath is a very popular local amenity the condition that the bank is left in will affect the whole town and this issue should seriously concern the council.
With that in mind it is extremely disappointing that on February 19, when the planning committee met to consider the relevant planning application from the agency, it waved the application through without discussing any of these questions. Comments from the public on the planning website and my own email to the chairman and vice-chairman of the committee were completely ignored.
I had hoped to personally attend this meeting to speak but was unable to get back from Cornwall that week, a fact I had conveyed to the planning officer by email three days before the meeting. On listening to the recording of the meeting on the council website I was appalled to hear the absence of a speaker from the public used as reason to assume that all issues had been resolved!
That was very clearly not the case! Local people deserve more transparency from the Environment Agency and a far better level of performance and greater sense of responsibility from the council planning committee.
If at the end of the day the bank itself is left as a disappointing mess it will be because the council failed in its duty to hold the Environment Agency to account when it had the opportunity.
Michael Chandler, River Close, Shoreham Beach
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