A decision on whether aggregate dredging can continue on a slice of sea-bed off Great Yarmouth for another 15 years will be made in the next few months.
Tarmac Marine wants to take up to six million tonnes from area 254 – first approved as a dredging zone in 1974 – over a period of 15 years.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has lodged an official objection saying it could be harming the coast and accelerating erosion.
His is one of 21 representations made as part of the consultation process.
In a letter to the Marine Management Organisation, the licensing authority, he said he had “serious concerns”.
He wrote: “As a coastal community the constituency of Great Yarmouth is acutely aware of the power of the sea and the ongoing damage caused to parts of our coastline by erosion.
“Whilst, thankfully, some parts of the borough have strong defences and some beaches are growing there remain serious challenges to our coastline in large areas of the borough, especially in the areas to the north of the town.
“The borough is rightly renowned for our beautiful sandy beaches, but sand is especially vulnerable to changes in sediment flow and adverse weather or tidal changes.
“Whilst I appreciate that there is not a scientific consensus that dredging affects coastal erosion there is considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest a relationship and I strongly believe that the continuing removal of material from the sea, comparatively close to the coastline, could result in a disruption to the natural sediment flow, potentially creating further problems for coastal communities, either in Great Yarmouth or further along the coast.”
James Bensly, whose borough council ward includes Hemsby and Winterton, said the council had also objected, and always had.
He understood dredging had been going on for some decades in an are three or four miles east of Great Yarmouth’s Hollywood cinema.
He says: “I am not saying dredging causes coastal erosion but it certainly does improve it without a shadow of a doubt, and ironically the stuff they dredge is used by the Dutch to shore up their coastline.
“Any kiddie knows if you dig a hole and take the sand away, material will move in to refill it.
“I am a great believer in cause and effect. In sucking up all these minerals what are we doing to the sea bed? I just think it is too close.
“That dredger looks like a big old evil ship when you see it off Hemsby. With all that has been going on it seems like they are rubbing our noses in it.”
What the documents say
The Area 254 proposal is to permit a maximum extraction of 6,000,000 tonnes over the 15 years licence term with a maximum annual extraction rate of 1,000,000 tonnes with an average annual extraction of 400,000 tonnes.
During the term of the marine licence the option for screening, hopper washing and seabed sampling is required.
Resources extracted from the licence areas will be delivered to ports along the East Coast of the UK, particularly along the Thames and aggregates may also be delivered to wharves along the west continental coast.
The aggregates will be used in concrete, infrastructure projects, and for coastal defence/beach nourishment.
The consultation process
The consultation closed on June 29.
Twenty-one public representations/objections (including the letter from Brandon Lewis MP) were received.
The licensing authority is currently reviewing all representations received and the advice from our scientific and environmental advisors (such as the Centre for Environment and Aquaculture Science).
As part the decision-making process it will consider whether the objection, and its supporting evidence, is relevant to the application.
Officials will always respond in writing to anyone who makes a written objection in relation to a licence application.
They aim to determine 90pc of applications within 13 weeks.
Story by Liz Coates for the Eastern Daily Press