Biosphere defends coastal defence scheme

Wooden fencing was installed to stabilise sand dunes at Instow in March last year.

Wooden fencing was installed to stabilise sand dunes at Instow in March last year. - Credit: Archant

Collapsed fencing at Instow is still helping to preserve dunes, say project co-ordinators.

Wooden fencing was installed to stabilise sand dunes at Instow in March last year.

Wooden fencing was installed to stabilise sand dunes at Instow in March last year. - Credit: Archant

NORTH Devon Biosphere Reserve has defended a project to stabilise sand dunes at Instow – despite claims that collapsed and half-buried wooden fencing is a danger to beach users.

A £10,000 scheme to trap sand and reduce the amount deposited on the beach and highway was installed with help from Bristol University students in March last year.

But much of the chestnut paling was hit by storms six months later, leaving behind what some have described as a ‘crumpled mess of dangerous spikes and wires’.

Yelland resident Joanne Bell said the fencing posed a serious risk to children playing in the dunes, as well as dogs. She said she had made repeated complaints during the last six months.


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She told the Gazette: “I have been totally ignored; this recent mess has cost us taxpayers £10,000 but it is the risk to our children and dogs that has concerned me and many others.”

But Andy Bell, Biosphere Reserve co-ordinator, claimed the project continued to provide successful coastal defence – even the sections that have collapsed.

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He said: “The work of the fences is to trap sand and the fact that they have continued to do so even laying down or half erected is a bonus.

“This method of dune fencing has been used for decades in many places around the world. As with the successful previous project we did about eight years ago, we monitor the fencing and remove parts that might pose a danger such as when the fence has only a few inches sticking out above the sand.”

Mr Bell said the scheme was put in place to save the Highways authority the costs of constantly clearing the sand from the road and blocking the drains on Marine Parade, but no planning could have accounted for the large storms in late September and October last year.

“Like other parts of the coast, the dunes suffered a three-metre setback and unfortunately this hit the fences quite hard,” he said.

“There were no resources to re-construct the fencing therefore I removed the completely uprooted fence sections, leaving the others to stand for a while.

“However, we have found some minor funds for volunteers and a contract supervisor to re-instate the existing fencing so it can continue to provide some coastal defence. “Hopefully it will have more time to do its job before another very large storm takes it out.”

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