Daily Mail: “Villagers’ fury as sea defence project is rejected because 20 small sea snails MIGHT be living nearby”
Seaside residents risk losing their homes to flooding and coastal erosion – for the sake of 20 tiny sea snails.
The owners of 1,350 properties at Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, have been told there is a one in 200 chance their homes will flood every year for the next century.
The warning came after a submerged shingle bank in the harbour was displaced changing the direction of the current towards the shore and eroding the beach.
A plan to redirect the flow of water away from land – which most local people are in favour of – has been thrown into jeopardy after the discovery of a rare snail colony.
The two millimetre-long Defolin’s lagoon snail is already a protected marine species. Conservationists are hoping to protect it further by using new legislation to make Pagham Harbour a Marine Conservation Zone.
The zones are being introduced to keep Britain in line with international conservation targets.
The move has infuriated local residents who are accusing conservation authorities of putting the snails ahead of millions of pounds of property, land that can be used for crops and businesses.
There is further outrage as conservationists can’t even be certain the snail is still there – and to try to find it isn’t possible as it is too delicate to survive the digging.
Ed Blackburn, vice-chairman of Pagham Parish Council, said: ‘Basically, the conservationists are saying “I’m sorry you are all going to drown and lose your homes but there might be 20 snails under here on holiday.”
‘This is not about protecting a snail – it’s about protecting us. They can’t even prove it’s [the snail] still there.
‘To do that, they’d have to dig into the shingle and it’s too small and delicate to survive it.’
The plans to bore a channel to change the current came from an engineer at Arun District Council in 2007 but were later scrapped.
Mr Blackburn said: ‘We feel that cutting this channel will secure the future of Pagham.
‘About 350 houses are on the precipice of flooding, along with quite literally hundreds and hundreds of acres of arable farmland and a campsite with 1,000 caravans.
‘It’s not a case of a few houses on the beach that could get wet, it’s a whole infrastructure and we need to protect these properties and businesses.
‘A lot of people are very angry. There’s nothing really more stupid than setting up a boundary for a snail which might not even be there.’
Ray Radmore, chairman of the parish council, added: ‘Pagham Harbour is hugely covered by a whole range of conservation status and the snail is very well-protected already. It isn’t necessary to have more protection on top of it.’
Coastal defences at Pagham were shored up last April when 10,000 cubic metres of shingle were dumped on the beach.
The Environmental Agency for the region said the area’s new status as a marine zone will not stop them adding more shingle to the beach.
Locals claim that since last year’s work, half of the shingle has already been washed away and to replace it costs £600,000 a time.
Andrew Gilham, flood and coastal risk manager at the Environment Agency, said: ‘The fundamental reason we would not support the cutting of a channel is that we do not believe it is necessary.
‘We don’t want to start work at great public cost which may be deemed unnecessary in the very near future because nature has dealt with the problem on its own.
‘We are proposing, through an adaptive management plan, to work very closely with the community to monitor how the harbour evolves naturally, and will have plans in place to take action if and when necessary.
‘At the moment, there is a very wide shingle beach in front of the properties at Pagham, which provide very good protection.
‘If it erodes further, the district council will take action to put more shingle there.
‘Far from doing nothing, this is one of the mostly closely monitored parts of the south coast and we are committed to ensuring that the residents of Pagham get the protection they need.’
Story by Louise Boyle in the Daily Mail