Campaigners have warned that residents just under one week left to raise objections to the Environment Agency’s plans for a ‘managed realignment’ at Donna Nook, which has raised concerns over the ‘potential loss’ of the existing public right of way along a footpath.
The Environment Agency has stated: “We are carrying out the Donna Nook Managed Realignment Scheme to fulfil our legal obligation under UK law to replace internationally important habitats that are lost through our flood defence works and rising sea levels.
“We have to complete this project to ensure that we will be able to undertake flood risk management works on the Humber in the future. Our current Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy will help us provide flood protection to 400,000 people around the estuary as well as industry and 90,000 hectares of agricultural land.”
A recent public notice, from the Department of Transport, states: “The secretary of state hereby gives notice of the proposal to make an Order under section 247 of the [Town and Country Planning Act 1990] to authorise the stopping up and diversion of a length of footpath number 18 (Grainthorpe and North Somercotes) at North Somercotes in the district of East Lindsey.
“If the order is made, the stopping up will be authorised only in order to enable development as permitted by East Lindsey District Council under reference N/132/00645/11”.
The public notice continues: “Any person may object to the making of the proposed order by stating their reasons in writing to the Secretary of State at email@example.com or National Transport Casework Team, Tyneside House, Skinnerburn Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 7AR, quoting the above reference. “Objections should be received by midnight on December 13, 2017.
“Any person submitting any correspondence is advised that your personal data and correspondence will be passed to the applicant/agent to be considered. If you do not wish your personal data to be forwarded, please state your reasons when submitting your correspondence.”
North Somercotes Parish Council has raised objections to the plans, with chairman Stephen Brook stating in a letter: “‘Stopping up’ removes the public highway rights that exist on the land and control of the land reverts back to the owner. This means that the land owner might permit the path still to be used – then called a ‘Permissive Path’, or they might not.
“If the land owner chooses either to restrict use of the permissive path, for example by banning dogs, or withdraws permission by closing the permissive path to the public altogether, there would be nothing that could be done about this.
“If this order is passed there would no longer be any right for members of the public to walk, as of right, along the public footpath no.18 from Stonebridge Cottages along the sea bank and across the sluice bridge at Pye’s Hall and beyond. Instead you would have to detour a considerable distance inland and use the newly created sea bank around the Realignment Site, which is much longer and does not have the same views out to sea and the estuary, and this would become a new public right of way.
“If you value your existing right, and the right of future generations, to walk along and enjoy the route along the sea bank of the existing public footpath no.18 and don’t want to lose that right, then please submit an objection to the proposed order.”
An Environment Agency spokesman told the Leader: “As part of the realignment project, we have built a new flood defence structure along the landward line of the site at Donna Nook. This new flood defence structure offers a higher standard of protection than the old coastal sea defences.
“Among the works, the Donna Nook Managed Realignment project has allowed us to complete are improvements to the tidal defences between Tetney and Saltfleet.
“These defences protected 3,000 properties and secured 13,000 hectares of agricultural land for future food production during the tidal surge of December 2013.
“We have already opened the tidal outfall to allow some tidal water to inundate approximately 27 ha of the habitat creation site at Donna Nook. We now require permission to divert the existing footpath before we can carry out works to remove part of the old flood defence structure over a length of 40 metres.
“The diversion of the footpath is a condition of the planning permission we obtained for the realignment project.
“People will continue to be able to enjoy the new public right of way along the diverted footpath.”
The Environment Agency spokesman continued: “We need to remove a section of the old flood defence structure to enable the Realignment Site to be fully inundated, which will allow 106 hectares of new intertidal habitats to develop. This will allow mudflats and saltmarsh to evolve in areas that get covered by the tide on a routine basis. These will provide compensatory habitat for flora and fauna, including for birds from the adjacent Special Protection Area.
“We have made an application to the Department for Transport for an order to divert the footpath onto the new flood defence. We have incorporated measures in the application that would make the diverted footpath better accessible to more people.
“The diverted route will continue the uninterrupted right of way between Marsh Lane, North Somercotes, and Grainthorpe.
“We are unable to give exact time frames for the progression of the application for the footpath diversion, as this is currently with the Department for Transport.”
• If you wish to object to the plans - before the deadline at midnight on December 13 - state your reasons in writing to the Secretary of State at firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting reference number N/132/00645/11.