Group 'unhappy' over response to beach erosion

A GROUP in the Glens seeking action on erosion at Waterfoot shoreline - a beach they describe as the finest between Larne and Ballycastle - is unhappy at a Moyle Council decision not to fund an investigation. Earlier this year Moyle Council decided against supporting a £4,750 investigation by a professor to assess the situation at Waterfoot Beach.

In the spring Councillor Oliver McMullan (Sinn Fein) said he was not in favour of spending that amount of money and was quoted as saying the situation regarding erosion was "more common sense than anything else".

But he suggested other avenues be investigated.

However, it has emerged Glenariff Improvement Group is unhappy.

In a letter to the Council, written in recent weeks, they said: "Some weeks ago a Council decision was made to forego seeking the advice of Professor Andrew Cooper on the impact of increased erosion at Waterfoot Beach.

"As ratepayers, we in this ward deserve some consideration and are unhappy at this decision.

"Our beach is the finest along the Antrim Coast Road from Larne to Ballycastle and we despair at the massive areas of hinterland disappearing almost on a daily basis.

"Councillor Oliver McMullan comments that it was 'more common sense than anything else' and therefore ratepayers money should not be spent on investigations.

"We, the residents of Glenariff, are possessed of a fair amount of common sense and we have our own opinions on the main causes of, and possible solutions to the ongoing problem.

"Perhaps Council would deign to discuss the matter with us in order to reach an agreeable conclusion acceptable to the majority of local ratepayers.]

"What common sense has Council applied to this matter and could we please be informed of your recommendations and possible solutions to a very pressing and urgent situation," said the Glenariff Improvement Group letter.

Michael McConaghy, Countryside Recreation Officer at Moyle Council, wrote back to the Glenariff group, saying their letter was tabled at a Council meeting on August 11 this year and the Council agreed he should write back to them stating the Council's position.

Mr McConaghy said the Improvement Group wrote to the Council in 2006 to see if they had any plans to deal with erosion.

Subsequently, said Mr McConaghy, Moyle Council contacted the Environment & Heritage Service, now the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), asking for comment on possible solutions.

The NIEA told the Council there was a "presumption against new hard defences on the coast and a move toward working with nature and accepting that erosion and accretion are natural coastal processes. NIEA is now unlikely to grant aid any form of coastal protection work except where a conservation gain can be demonstrated".

Mr McConaghy said the matter was raised again at the Council in April 2008 when they contacted NIEA again to see if their position had changed.

NIEA said their position had not changed and they referred the Council to a study commissioned by the National Trust although they stated the Council may wish to seek advice from a coastal geomorphologist.

Subsequently, said Mr McConaghy, the Council contacted Professor Cooper at the University of Ulster who was asked to cost a study which came in at 4,750.

Mr McConaghy said the costs were considered at a meeting in May this year along with the NIEA position on coastal erosion and it was decided that the Council would adopt the NIEA position "but if, in the future, funding was to become available then a study of the erosion would be commissioned".

In the letter to the Improvement Group, Mr McConaghy added: "At present there are no agencies offering grant assistance for coastal erosion studies although Rivers Agency has commissioned RPS Consulting Engineers to carry out a review of Coastal Flood and Erosion Management in Northern Ireland which Moyle District Council, as stakeholders with a vested interested in coastal flooding and erosion management, are participating."