NEWS COMMENT: Let's draw a line under the Southsea sea defences row and try again

What a mess the seafront flood defences imbroglio has become '“ and thank goodness the whole business has been paused for a while.

Saturday, 10th February 2018, 6:37 am
Updated Saturday, 10th February 2018, 9:23 am
Work on a separate sea defences project in Eastney has been taking place in the last few months

For those who have not kept up to speed with the situation, this is the background. The council announced it wanted, quite sensibly, to improve the flood defences along the length of Southsea seafront. Diagrams were produced which seemed to show three or four-metre high concrete barricades – a sight which understandably got residents’ backs up, even more so when later on the council tried to explain that these pictures had only been created in order to bid for money, not because they would ever be implemented.

While this happened, support grew for a ‘softer’ engineered solution – perhaps involving sand dunes and reeds to hold back the tides, rather than the concrete escarpments that many feared.

Then politics intervened, and as ever only served to muddy the water. Portsmouth South Labour MP Stephen Morgan wrote to the government asking it to hold back £5.9m given to the project to allow more time to get residents’ views and explore the potential alternatives – and then Conservatives pounced on this as proof he was trying to deprive Portsmouth of cash.

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All the while, naturally, the need to protect the city from the sea did not diminish.

However, despite the mess – and slanging match – the subject has become, we welcome this delay (although cynics would say that it will conveniently mean that this consultation will take place after the local elections in May).

Let’s hope that when it eventually happens it has some more order and structure than ad hoc public meetings. Let’s see a series of potential designs – and techniques – put on show, with pros and cons proposed by third-party experts, and let’s see everything well publicised, and transparent.

We find it hard to believe that the city council was ever planning 4m-high walls along the seafront – but we find it hard to understand how it got itself into a position where that’s what many people feared. Let’s just start again.