Options for the future

During the Pathfinder Project, members of the community drew up a list of six possible approaches to the management of flood risk at the Cuckmere, in addition to a 'baseline' option of continuing with the current approach. The options are summarised below. Further information is available in the Community Forum Cuckmere Estuary Options Full Report.

Baseline ('do nothing')
This option is based on the current situation of the Environment Agency ithdrawing maintenace of defences from April 2011, but continuing to clear the river mouth for either 15 years or until the river system becomes self regulating. 

Option A: Partial breach of the flood defences
This would involve breaching the embankments in two ‘cells’ in the Estuary in order to restore the Cuckmere to a naturally functioning estuary, and to encourage  the development of saltmarsh. A new embankment would prevent flooding in other areas and protect the Foxhole Valley.

Option B: Full breach of the flood defences
This would involve breaching the embankments in all three of the cells to restore the naturally functioning estuary, including allowing water to enter the meanders. A new embankment would be created to protect the A259.

Option C: Engineered reactivation of the meanders
This would involve undertaking engineering works in order to restore theValley floor as a fully functioning tidal estuary, with active tidal meanders.

Option D: Maintain the existing defences
This option involves maintaining the existing flood embankments along the river at their present height, to maintain the estuary in its current form.

Option E: Sustain/improve the existing defences – longer term
This would involve reinforcing the river embankments and building them up by 300mm initially to preserve the Cuckmere over the shorter term. A second phase of reinforcement and enlargement would be planned to take place in 20-50 years time, together with the addition of new sea defences and other engineering works.

Option F: Sustain/improve the existing defences – shorter term
This is an alternative approach to sustaining the existing defences whereby the river embankments would be raised by 300mm, to cope with raised water levels predicted over the next 50 years.

To help the community identify the preferred approach, East Sussex County Council has commissioned a modelling report which uses a detailed hydraulic study of the Cuckmere, alongside a geomorphological and ecological review, to explore the likely short, medium and long term impacts of each different flood risk management option.

The team has also provided a background guide to the legislation relevant to the Cuckmere Estuary, its features and assets.

Assessment criteria

The community agreed that the options should be assessed using the following criteria:

1. Sustain the A259.
2. Maintain the current level of access for all in the Estuary.
3. No overall detrimental effect to ecology, ideally an enhancement.
4. Potential for improved education and better interpretation of the Estuary.
5. No increase in flood risk upstream of the A259.
6. Protection of existing properties.
7. Sustain the historic environment.
8. Sustain the high quality of the landscape character.
9. Minimise maintenance requirements.
10. Encourage tourism and local business.