COMMENT: Council must take on board the views of residents

Summer in the sunshine at the  West Wittering Beach Estate in West Sussex              Picture: Derek Martin

ZELLA COMPTON: Have you braved West Wittering yet? Is the sand worth it?

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Imagine a metre-high wall running along Southsea Esplanade by South Parade Pier. And, on the other side of the wall, a thick line of large rocks to be negotiated before you get to the beach.

The image on our front page today is a powerful reminder that the seafront could end up looking very different once a mammoth £100m project to boost sea defences begins next year.

What could be the biggest local authority-led flood defence scheme in the country has been talked about for years, but the scheme is now close to becoming reality.

Of course there will be concerns that the attractiveness of a visit to our coastline will be compromised by large barriers put in the sea’s way.

But surely nobody can deny that some kind of improved defences are vital if more than 8,000 homes are to be protected from the potentially devastating effects of flooding.

Half-measures are no good. We have to ensure that structures built now will stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws at them in the future.

The balancing act is to also preserve, as much as we can, the special nature of the seafront that has drawn visitors here since the Victorian age.

Consultations on the Southsea Coastal Plan start today at Eastney Community Centre and will offer information on sea defence proposals for eight areas of the seafront.

People will have the chance to give their views via questionnaires and we urge as many as possible to make sure their voices are heard before any decisions are made by city councillors.

We also expect the council to really take on board what local people say and allow them to challenge the options on the table, rather than give a simple yes or no to the list of designs they are presented with.

Because this is much too important an issue to be decided without the involvement of those it will affect the most.