Background to the project

In April 2011 the Environment Agency withdrew maintenance of the existing flood defences at the Cuckmere Estuary.  It is therefore important to develop a management plan now which has full community support and which will secure the best long-term future for the Estuary.

During 2009 a series of public meetings to discuss the issue were held by the Cuckmere Estuary Partnership, a coalition of local councils, landowners, heritage and conservation agencies. The Partnership has historically favoured working with nature to allow the Estuary to adapt to sea level rise and create a mosaic of saltmarsh and mudflats (a process known as managed realignment). 
It was very clear from the feedback received at the meetings that there is a wide range of views, not all in agreement with the Partnership’s position.  A clear recommendation was that members of the community wanted further involvement in the decisions about the Cuckmere. As a result, a Community Forum was established in 2009. Membership of the Forum is open to anyone who wants a say in the future of the Estuary. Members of the Forum work closely with members of the Partnership and representatives attend each other’s group meetings.

In response to the feedback from the public meetings East Sussex County Council successfully applied to Defra for funding for the Pathfinder Project, to continue the dialogue with the community.  As a member of the Cuckmere Estuary Partnership, the County Council has in the past supported the principle of managed realignment. However, it recognises that there is a wide range of opinion, and is committed to working with the community to consider all the options and to agree a solution that has widespread support.

The Pathfinder Project is steered by a Project Board, which includes members of both the Cuckmere Estuary Partnership and the Community Forum.  The engagement programme has been designed and will be facilitated by Hopkins Van Mil, a team of independent facilitators.