The Committee received and considered the Planning Manager's report which proposed construction of a rock berm on Hemsby beach measuring a maximum 1330m long, 20m wide and +3m high; installation of new beach access ramp at Hemsby Gap; removal and relocation of existing Hexiblocks from southern end of site for use within the berm feature.
Members received a presentation from the Senior Planning Officer which highlighted areas for planning consideration with the main issues summarised as follows :-
- Principle of development
- Wider policy context
- Method of construction
- Landscape and appearance of the area
- Residential amenity
- Traffic and highways impacts
- Public beach access
- Ecology and biodiversity
- Heritage and cultural impacts
- Flood risk
- Coastal erosion effects
- Social and economic impacts
- Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
- The EIA process
The Planning Manager provided members with a comprehensive summary on the planning balance as follows :-
The Environment Agency and other consultees previously suggested the berm might compromise the longer-term natural protection that the dune system provides against coastal erosion. There were concerns that the berm could affect sediment transfer which would be detrimental to natural sea defences either side of the application site. Furthermore, there were concerns the berm could interrupt natural sediment recharge into the dune system which would be detrimental to habitats. And therefore the semi-permanent rock berm would be contrary to the shoreline management plan recommendations.
The proposal is a short-term measure that would have a life of up to 20 years. The ES
identifies that the siting in front of the dunes would have no significant effect on
sediment transfer. A short-term measure would not be contrary to the SMP.
The rate of erosion at Hemsby has increased with three significant events in a short
period. Local Plan policy recognises coastal change areas and supports the movement
of commercial and residential uses from these locations. The berm will provide time
for commercial and residential occupants at Hemsby to plan to relocate inland.
The berm would have a minor and low level impact on the landscape and a less than
substantial level of harm to the setting, character and appearance of the two adjoining
conservation areas at each end of the berm. There is also potential for archaeological interest and some significant potential for extremely valuable geological and paleo-environmental assets at the site which if discovered and if then disturbed would be a major impact of national significance, but by imposing careful controls through conditions these can be mitigated and appropriate precautions arranged.
In the short-term the berm would provide additional economic benefit to Hemsby
through supporting leisure and tourism and little negative impact during the work.
25.11 It is therefore considered that if the ES findings are corroborated in respect of the
impacts on protected species sites, and natural habitats and species, then there should
be little lasting impact on ecology and natural habitat regeneration, and the benefits of
the development would be considered to outweigh the drawbacks.
The Planning Manager reported that the applicant has supported the application with detail of the means of construction, the method of delivery of the rock to the site, the storage of plant vehicles and machinery and the likely impacts to the local area during the construction period and after.
The application has identified that the berm is a short-term solution where the longterm
strategic adopted policy is to allow natural change to the coastline in this area.
Assessments of the beach erosion and tidal activities suggests that longer term beach
recession trends could see the beach level drop by up to 2m over the next 20 years
causing greater undermining of the dune cliffs and significant erosion losses up to 20m
per storm, so the importance of a short-term protection measure cannot be overstated
to enable the community to consider longer term adaptation strategies.
The Planning Manager reported that having considered the details provided, the application is considered to comply with policies CS6, CS8, CS10, CS13 and CS16 from the adopted Core Strategy, and policies GSP4, A1, E1, and E5 from the adopted Local Plan Part 2. The proposed development is in line with the general ambitions and objectives of the Shoreline Management Plan and in particular the SMP allowance for short-term protection measures only where assets are at risk.
Although not all consultee feedback has been received and therein lies a risk of further
assessment and reconsideration being required, it is considered likely that there are
no other material considerations to suggest the application should not be
recommended for approval.
Councillor T Wright asked if there was an anticipated timescale for works to commence. The Planning Manager advised that currently this was dependant on funding but the application if approved would be subject to commencement within 3 years.
Councillor Hammond raised some concern with regard to children being able to climb up onto the rocks. Councillor Hammond also asked if there were any guarantees this system would work for Hemsby, it was advised that this type of structure had been used at the nearby neighbouring village of California and was currently still in place.
Councillor Jeal asked for clarification as to who owned the land, this was confirmed as Geoffrey Whatling Group. Councillor Jeal also advised that he was aware that dredging within half a mile of the coastline was not allowed and wondered therefore if this would have an impact on the project, it was advised that the Marine Management would be looking into this matter.
Ann Casey, Coastal Adaptation Officer addressed the Committee and thanked them for considering the application she advised that she had prepared the planning application being considered by the Committee and had undertaken the work and studies for the Rock Berm solution.
Ann advised the Committee that with regard to the timetable this was dependant on funding and this remained a challenge but noted that most funders would not allow schemes to apply for funding until planning permission had been granted.
Members were advised that 19 options were considered for Hemsby with 6 options being shortlisted, Rock Berm had been the option selected. It was advised that whilst Rock Berm would not stop erosion this would be a measure to slow down the process of erosion.
Councillor T Wright asked if any cost benefit analysis had been completed on the application, this was confirmed.
Lance Martin, Supporter to the application hereby addressed the Committee. Lance advised that he had backfilled his property 5 times sur to erosion and would need to continue to do this until a solution such as rock berm was in place, he put a plea to the Committee to have the rock berm approved and put in place as soon as possible. He reported that 49 properties were affected by the ongoing erosion.
Councillor T Wright asked how long could Mr Martin's home be backfilled before this could no longer be done, Mr Martin advised approximately 24 months.
Councillor Galer, Ward Councillor addressed the Committee and commented that Hemsby's economy was built on 90% tourism and therefore if erosion continued at the current rate this could see a loss of a number of businesses and services, therefore having a detrimental impact on the industry within Hemsby. He commented that if investment is put into the scheme then there is a confidence that the berm would see erosion reduced.
Councillor Bensly, Ward Councillor addressed the Committee and thanked Officers for there work on the application, he commented that Hemsby had become fragile since the beast from the east had struck and therefore the Rock Berm solution was very much needed. He advised that the scheme would allow for a ramp for the lifeboat and accessibility would be maintained.
That Committee Agree
(1) To delegate authority to the Head of Planning to approve the application following receipt of outstanding comments from Consultees; and, subject to satisfactory completion of the Habitats Regulations Assessment process; and, subject to conditions.
(2) That in the event that comments are received from those consultees which state objections or which request conditions that are not practical for inclusion within the project, to revert back to Development Control Committee for the application’s determination.