FEARS about the condition of the Littlehampton’s coastal waters have been heard by the Government’s environment secretary.
Experienced diver Ray Lee, of East Preston, has united with Bognor and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb to raise concerns about the impact a large-scale dredging project in Southampton is having on Littlehampton’s coastline.
Mr Lee, who initially flagged up his concerns with Mr Gibb, said the dredging project, taking place some 40 miles away, is causing silt and debris to drift towards Littlehampton.
The 83-year-old claims that this is having a massive impact on visibility in the coastal waters and is subsequently affecting angling and pottering trawler trades not only off Littlehampton’s coastline, but that of the entire region.
Mr Lee, who has been diving in the local waters for 45 years, said: “It’s like a car crash – it’s already started.
“If nothing changes, I think it will be a disaster that will be felt for two years.”
The dredging project is part of a scheme to deepen the Southampton’s port to allow larger vessels in.
It is being undertaken by the port’s owner, the Associated British Ports (ABP) who hopes the work would not only bolster the city’s economy, but that of the nation’s.
Mr Lee said that millions of tonnes of debris is being dumped at the strategic point six miles off the Isle of Wight, called the Nab Tower deposit.
He said that some of this is then being carried by the tidal stream right the way along the south coast, affecting areas to the east and west of Southampton.
Mr Gibb was so moved by Mr Lee’s worries that he has since written to Owen Paterson, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, expressing his concerns about the impact dredging is having on Littlehampton’s coastline.
Mr Gibb said: “It’s important that none of the users of the coastline don’t have any impact on other users. If the dredging work in Southampton is making the visibility of the waters to the east and west along the coast worse then something needs to change.”
Mr Lee has appealed to ABP urging them to move the drop point for debris into deeper coastal water, which he said would not be affected by the tide.
“I know this might raise costs for the project but surely it’s got to be worth it,” he said.
Mr Gibb added: “There does need to be some give and take to let other users of the coast to enjoy diving and angling without having these activities detrimentally affected.”
In response to Mr Lee and Mr Gibb, a spokeswoman for the ABP said that while sediment levels in the sea may appear high at the moment, that this would soon settle.
She said: “Detailed modelling of the disposal of the dredged material from the capital dredge of the port’s marine access, the first to take place since 1997, indicated that the sediment would be dispersed from the Nab Deposit ground.
“Whilst the initial suspended sediment concentrations are high, the modelling indicates that this will dissipate by an order of magnitude in minutes to hours following the disposal.”
Dredging is scheduled to continue until mid-December.