Chapel St Leonards Parish Council has invested in a £23,000 digger to tackle the problem of windblown sand blocking coastal paths.
The coastal community’s council has been plagued by complaints over the years by both residents and holidaymakers who unable to enjoy the promenade because of sand accumulation.
“What people refer to as the promenade is actually the sea defence wall, owned and maintained by the Environment Agency to protect the area from coastal flooding,” explained council chairman, Cllr Patrick Naughton.
“The Agency clears sand twice a year to enable it to inspect the integrity of the wall. But if a strong wind comes off the sea, the sand can be back the next day, making it very difficult to walk along it, and impossible for mobility scooters.”
The Environment Agency permits public access to the sea defence wall, but budgetary constraints do not permit it to organise sand clearance more than twice a year.
The parish council has in the past brought in contractors to undertake additional sand clearance, but this has proved both costly and ineffective in keeping the sea defence wall clear of sand.
“We have to recognise that we are a seaside community,” added Cllr Naughton. “Not only do our residents wish to enjoy the promenade, including those who are elderly or disabled, but holiday makers also wish to enjoy easy access to the beach and to walk along the sea defence wall.
“Keeping it reasonably clear of sand will also benefit the local businesses, who are dependent upon the visitors. Although we have no legal duty for clearing the sand, the council felt that it would be in the interests of all the community if we could come up with a solution.”
The new digger is an Avant 528 loader, which after a lengthy tendering process has been purchased from Messrs J T Friskney Ltd of Horncastle at a cost of £23,000.
The council’s responsible finance officer, Cllr Mel Turton-Leivers said: “With the Council’s relatively small budget, this represents a significant capital investment.
“Our precept – the portion of the Council tax that comes to the parish council – is £75,600, which represents around £52 per annum for a band D property. This is supplemented by a small amount of income that the council gains from property rental.
“We were determined that the precept should not rise this current year, so I had to find savings from within last year’s and this year’s budgets to fund the purchase of the machine. That is easier said than done, but I am very satisfied with the result.”
The Avant 528 is powerful enough to tackle the sand before it builds up to an unacceptable level, but small enough to access the narrower approaches to the sea defence wall.
But it is not just sand clearance that the machine will be used for.
“In choosing the Avant, we had other uses in mind,” explained Councillor Turton-Leivers. “We have already investigated attachments to tackle other jobs around the village, including an ability to supplement gritting in key areas in the winter, and will purchase these as the money becomes available.”