CONCERTED PUBLIC pressure for action to stop the erosion of a natural harbour has this week paid off for south coast sailors, with work beginning to beef up Chichester's East Head spit.
Fears for the future of the spit emerged in October last year, when a 90m long breach opened up near its connection with the mainland.
Local residents urged Chichester District Council (CDC) to act as the authority responsible for coastal protection.
But hard engineering has been ruled out by environmental groups English Nature and the National Trust, who wish to preserve the site's unspoilt nature.
'There was a huge public outcry for something to be done, ' said CDC coastal protection officer David Lowsley.
'The residents are wealthy, and so funding a hard defence scheme wouldn't have been a problem. However, it wouldn't have been the right thing to do, ' he said.
'But it really got up people's noses that we were prepared to sit and watch it happen, ' said Lowsley.
Leading the campaign for action has been harbour authority Chichester Harbour Conservancy. It warns that if the breach is not sealed, a tidal channel will form, exposing the harbour to the open sea.
The spit protects Britain's largest purely recreational harbour which is home to 10,000 registered vessels. It also forms a natural flood defence barrier to the harbour village of West Wittering.
Efforts to find a sustainable long term solution have been hampered by delays to publication of the Selsey Peninsula Coastal Defence Strategy, which covers Chichester harbour.
This was due to be published before Christmas, but is now not expected until later this summer. It is expected to recommend lowering of groynes on West Wittering beach to promote sand movement.
Until then, the council is shipping 13,000m 3 of sand and shingle from the northern tip of East Head back to its original home on the spit, sealing the eroded gap in the dunes to a depth of 2m.