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Divided views over Southend's foreshore future
12:00pm Monday 8th October 2012 in News
RESIDENTS are divided over whether Southend’s mudflats are being swept away. Earlier this week, the Echo revealed the Environment Agency and Southend Council believed an estimated 2ft of silt and sediment - one of the richest habitats on the planet - has vanished into the estuary waters over the last six months. But dozens of residents believe the seafront has not changed for more than 40 years. Lucas Manston, 44, of Undercliff Gardens, Chalkwell, said: “I have been walking up and down those beaches for decades, and nothing has changed that I can see. “I think this is all a case of scaremongering.” Martin Fowler, 57, of Ness Road, Shoebury, added: “I cannot see any difference whatsoever. “I don’t know what the agenda of these authorities is, but I can tell you there has been no change to the mudflats at all.” The depth of the mud which covered the estuary has naturally varied over the years as a result of the prevailing weather conditions. But since the start of the spring, environmental experts say they have noticed a consistent decline which has now left many parts of the north bank of the Thames completely bare. Some of the worst erosion has been pinpointed between Thorpe Bay and Leigh. Many people, including Southend councillors David Norman, Peter Wexham and Martin Terry, have pointed the finger of blame at DP World. The Dubai-owned firm is building the £1.5million London Gateway superport at the former Shell Haven oil refinery, near Stanford-le-Hope. As part of the project, it is dredging a 300m-wide, 3m-deep channel in the Thames to allow large container ships to reach the port. Philip Hall, 64, of Honiton Road, Southend, compared the operation to the one which destroyed Hallsands, a village on the Devon coast, in the early 20th century. He said: “It is the same thing happening again. “There they were dredging offshore, and the beach was swept away so that the cliffs eroded. “It could happen again.” LONDON Gateway bosses say they are doing everything they can to monitor the situation in the estuary. As part of the dredging process, DP World conducts regular surveys of the fish stocks and changes in the river, which it feeds back to the Environment Agency and Southend Council. Marcus Pearson, the environmental manager at London Gateway, said: “We are aware of the mud erosion issue that is being investigated by the Environment Agency, along with Southend Council and the Kent & Essex Inland Fisheries & Conservation Authority. “London Gateway’s environment team is providing information to support the Environment Agency’s research. “London Gateway has undertaken detailed surveys and extensive monitoring of the Thames estuary as part of its world-class environmental management programme.”
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