Battered and bruised coastal path still closed

Storm damage to the cycle path at Bulverhythe
Storm damage to the cycle path at Bulverhythe

The Bulverhythe Coastal Link cycle and pedestrian route remains closed and in a serious state of disrepair following winter storms and may have to be replaced.

The 1.36 mile beachside route, which stretches between Bexhill and Hastings, suffered extensive damage after being battered by winter storms and has been closed for the past few months. Extreme weather conditions caused the tide to breach sea defences tearing up and twisting the path, making it impassable to either pedestrians or cyclists.

Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, The Sustrans Links to School Project and East Sussex County Council (ESCC), the path was constructed by the Jackson Civil Engineering at a cost of £360,000 and is part of the nationwide Sustrans Connect 2 network.

When the path opened a little over two years ago many questioned the durability of the rubber Netpave material used. Peter Norman, who commuted to Bexhill from Hastings by cycle every day, described it as a “huge disappointment”, and said he’d hoped it would have had a flatter surface, such as tarmac.

At the time ESCC defended the use of Netpave and a spokesman said they were now looking for a long-term solution to the current problem. “The material for the cycle route was selected in line with planning conditions and taking into account the need for it to be durable, flexible and appropriate to its beachside location.

“The problems on a small stretch of the route are the result of a period of unprecedented extreme weather which saw four severe storms within a few months.”

Bexhill Wheeler’s spokesman, Ian Hollidge said it was disappointing that the path had been closed. He said: “After The Big Lottery Fund, Sustrans and ESCC have given us a wonderful coastal path it is swiftly closed by 2014 storm surges.

“It is pointless looking for someone to blame as it is impossible to hold back nature. What would be good is if the Environment Agency imported more boulders constructing a stronger sea defence, ESCC to secure the Netpave and have it regularly swept clean of pebbles, rocks and boulders ensuring the shingle provides a smoother surface. The route was regularly used and it’s disappointing that it has been closed so soon.”

ESCC’s spokesman said they are hopeful that the path will be reopened within a few weeks but say if a long-term solution isn’t found the path may have to be replaced. “We are currently making arrangements for a contractor to carry out temporary repairs which we hope will allow us to re-open the cycle path before the Easter bank holiday.

“We remain in close contact with the Environment Agency, who will be repairing the sea defences at this location, and we are examining options for a permanent solution to prevent future damage, which may involve using a different type of surface.”