Sea defences near Littlehampton may not be fixed, sparking environmental fears.
The timber groynes on Climping Beach, designed to stop beach erosion and shingle being moved along by waves, were damaged during Storm Brendan in January, causing the sea to spill over and flood the land nearby.
The Environment Agency said the groynes’ damage was ‘beyond economic repair’ and ‘exceeds what we can justify spending under current Government rules’.
Residents feared that without the groynes’ protection, shingle would be washed into Littlehampton Harbour, harming boat activity there, and lead to more flooding.
Robert Boyce from Littlehampton Shipyard, which operates from Rope Walk on the River Arun’s est bank, feared that ‘people’s homes will be flooded their businesses destroyed’ if money was not invested in Climping’s sea defences.
He also suggested that shingle washed into the river from Climping was being sold off rather than returned to the beach, making the flooding risk worse.
He said he would meet with local MPs Nick Gibb and Sir Peter Bottomley to get the Government to step in.
James Walsh, leader of Arun District Council, said ‘only Government Ministerial action can cause the Environment Agency to change its policy stance of inaction here’ and added it could have ‘serious consequences for the 1,000 homes earmarked for Littlehampton’s West Bank in Arun’s Local Plan.
Terry Ellis, from North Ham Road, Littlehampton, feared the damage flooding would do to the beach and its sand dunes, which are a nationally-protected Site of Special Scientific Interest.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency has led on the management of the beach at Climping since 2015. The Arun to Pagham Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy recommended that we should try to maintain these defences for as long as we could.
“We are now talking to residents who are most at risk of flooding and will be working with them to help on how they can protect their properties.
“In the coming weeks we will be completing work to ensure the public safety of visitors to the beach.
“We will also continue to monitor the beach and provide our free flood warning service which you can sign up for by calling 0345 988 1188 or visiting https://www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings”