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Northumberland County Council to discuss funding for Lynemouth erosion solution

By Kris Jepson

Northumberland County Council has told ITV News Tyne Tees it will consider funding provision during its annual budget discussions in February to decide how much money to spend on dealing with an ongoing erosion problem at Lynemouth beach.

ITV News revealed in March last year how the erosion of cliffs at Lynemouth was leading to industrial waste, household rubbish and plastics seeping out onto the beach and into the sea at an historic landfill site.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Steve Lowe spends hours running regular litter picks on the beach and, in his role as an officer for the Northumberland Rivers Trust, is particularly concerned how the waste is impacting on river and sea wildlife.

He told ITV News that the cliffs have eroded by up to four meters in the 9 months since our last visit and he has seen evidence of industrial waste being transported by the sea to neighbouring beaches.

From your last visit it’s changed enormously. We’ve got, probably I’d say, about three to four meters of cliff that’s gone and it’s going every day by the looks of it… some of this is a fresh fall from just last week… that’s about three to four meters and this fall is actually recent in the last few days and this item in front of us wasn’t even visible a week ago, so what we’ve got here has gone in seven days. We know that this is a problem, but we don’t really know exactly what’s planned and in the meantime the cliffs are eroding much quicker than I think anyone would expect and I think it’s time we really got on top of it. A few weeks ago we did a beach clean with a group and we took away an enormous amount of rubbish and pretty much most of it was the same stuff that’s coming out the cliffs here. It was the piping, which had been cut through, it was bits of conveyor belt, large pieces. They are finding it in Cresswell as well, which is to the north of us, which is perhaps a bit of a surprise because long shore drift takes things south generally, but its definitely moving around.

– Steve Lowe, Northumberland Rivers Trust
Lynemouth Erosion Credit: ITV News

The Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) has role in managing the marine conservation zone. This involves helping protect designated sea life and coastal features on a large stretch of Northumberland coastline.

The man who chairs the authority told ITV News it is “frustrating” to see the deteriorating erosion.

It’s sad. I mean it’s bad enough where we are now within the world with plastic and pollution within the sea, without something that we have actually physically done ourselves. It wouldn’t happen in Brighton. It wouldn’t happen in Kent. It wouldn’t happen in Padstow. It just wouldn’t happen. If it had happened, it would have been cleared up by now. I know the council are working hard to do it and I do congratulate them on that, because it can’t happen overnight and it has got to be done scientifically, but it is a time bomb and time, you know, waits for no man.

– Les Weller, NIFCA

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Lynemouth Erosion Credit: ITV News

In March last year, 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 had 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."

However, since this programme revealed the extent of the problem and local politicians became interested in the issue, the council has reconsidered its position.

Lynemouth Erosion Credit: ITV News

Paul Jones is the Director of Local Services for the council assured ITV News it is “fully committed” to dealing with the problem and will discuss funding provisions at the annual budget meetings in February.

We are fully committed to solving the problems at the site. We’ve commissioned specialist consultants to look at some of the options available to us and they’ve been undertaking ground investigation works, such as the bore hole here, so we understand the nature and extent of the waste and the materials that are deposited at the site before we consider what the options are… There’s three main options. One’s to look at coastal protection features to prevent further erosion of the site. The second option is to allow those natural processes to take place, but to look at removal of any materials from the site that would be of concern and to dispose of those in a licensed landfill site or, alternatively a bit of a hybrid of the two.

– Paul Jones, Northumberland County Council

The council plans to reopen its talks with the government over securing support centrally, but previously the Environment Agency said the “ultimate responsibility for both the landfill site and coastal defences at Lynemouth Beach lies with the council."