By Kris Jepson
Exclusive: Residents have called on authorities to excavate an historic landfill site, which is leaking waste onto Lynemouth Beach and into the sea.
Northumberland County Council told ITV News it undertook a land reclamation in the early 2000s, which involved cleaning up the beach and landscaping the cliffside, but it said it no longer has the means to repeat the process, saying "the prospect of the County Council being able to afford to excavate it and remove it from sight is very, very slim."
The Government said it has no plans to fund a coastal erosion scheme at Lynemouth and the Environment Agency said "ultimate responsibility for both the landfill site and coastal defences at Lynemouth Beach lies with the council."
Watch @krisjepson's report here:
A group of volunteer litter pickers in Northumberland have told ITV News they are desperately concerned for the environment and wildlife in Lynemouth because of the erosion on the cliffside at an old colliery landfill site.
Cllr Liz Dunn, who represents the council in Lynemouth, said "the parish council get a lot of complaints about it and really its been stricken by waste for many, many years and its just something that local residents really want to see cleared up. Many of the beaches along the coastline are in danger of erosion and all this stuff is coming out of this cliff now, theres great safety concerns about it."
Barry Meade, who organised the litter pick, said he has started seeing the industrial waste washing up on nearby beaches.
What's really distressful right now is that some of the waste that is eroding in the cliffs behind us is now washing up on Creswell beach and Druridge Bay and I'm just staggered to think what must be deposited out into the sea behind us, so yes, it's very distressing and you think what a legacy for my children and my grandchildren.
According to research carried out in August, 2018, by Queen Mary University of London and the Environment Agency, there are more than 1,200 coastal landfill sites in England and one third of these are situated near ecological sites.
The research suggests 10 per cent of these historic landfills will start eroding in the next 40 years.
The Lynemouth landfill is already eroding and industrial, colliery, household and fly-tipped waste is now seeping onto the beach and into the sea.
Members of the Northumberland Rivers Trust told ITV News that the landfill erosion is beginning to impact on the River Lyne, which runs into the Lynemouth Beach.
Steve Lowe, said the River Lyne used to be a good trout river, but now due to debris there has been "a massive decline in the numbers of fish".
Plastics get pretty much into the environment, at the lowest level and then go right up the food chain, so we do know they are getting into fish species in particular and I’ve also been doing some work on foamers along the coast and just little bits of plastic, they can snatch them off the top of the water, ingest and they get stuck inside their gullets, so they can’t actually feed and that means they end up dying. If you’ve got smothering going on that means there aren’t any shellfish, which means that there won’t be anything feeding on shellfish, which means that the birds and sea mammals can’t survive.
Northumberland County Council has become aware of the issue in recent weeks, and has history of dealing with the landfill site in the past.
The Council's countryside and green spaces manager, Mike Jeffrey, said it is a problem the council inherited when it took ownership of the land in 2000.
That landfill site probably comprises hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material, so the prospect of the County Council being able to afford to excavate it and remove it from sight is very, very slim. It would cost many, many millions of pound to do that... I think there is a responsibility on us all to try and do something about it... We think the best that’s probably possible here is that we monitor it, we keep an eye on it, we remove the litter on a regular basis, that is falling out of the cliff face onto the beach. We try to prevent as much of that material as possible getting into the sea, but the prospect of being able to remove it all is very slim. If the government were able to fund us to do it, we would be more than happy to undertake that work.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told ITV News it currently has no plans to fund a coastal erosion scheme in Lynemouth, but said that the council can apply for a grant in aid to help contribute to such a project.
However, the council said it would require "millions" of pounds to resolve the matter, and that kind of money simply does not exist.
We take the issues at Woodhorn very seriously and we are supporting our partners, including Northumberland County Council, to assist them in their responsibility for managing this historic landfill site. Ultimate responsibility for both that site and coastal defences at Lynemouth Beach lies with the council. This is because local authorities are best placed to understand and manage theirlocal coastline, with decisions on distributing Government funding made by the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.