The Environment Agency and Natural England have both stated that shingle recycling is a weak, low-reliability and expensive defense. And as Natural England points out, the sea has all the time in the world to keep moving the shingle back from the west of England to the east, as it has done for thousands of years.
So what can we do instead, without harming Dungeness?
The Environment Agency states in its guidance document on flood defense strategies that we need to work with (rather than against) natural processes to manage flood and coastal erosion risk — protecting, restoring and emulating the natural regulating function of catchments, rivers, floodplains and coasts. This means agreeing a more strategic and sustainable option than beach recycling, that will succeed long-term and provide a high standard of protection for our homes and communities.
A successful strategy for flood defenses along this precious stretch of coast would involve multi-functional wetlands that provide wildlife and recreational resource, and more saltmarsh and mudflats that enhance our coastal defences, such as the natural example set by our neighbours in Rye Harbour. Managed coastal realignment would provide a "soft and flexible" defence that is better able to respond to future sea level rises than existing fixed, hard structures and without the need for a quarry in Dungeness.
This is what we should be pushing our MPs for.
If a shingle-based solution must be pursued, two options are available that will not adversely affect the local community, the unique Dungeness environment or your peaceful enjoyment of this internationally important part of the coastline:
The applicants have sourced the shingle from a commercial quarry in previous years and could continue to do so now.
If cost is the issue then The University of Sussex notes in their paper on Beach Recharge in Kent and East Sussex that recharging beaches with shingle dredged off-shore can cost as little as half or two-thirds as much as bringing the shingle in by lorry from a gravel pit.
Recharging the beaches from a barge or boat anchored off-shore would also address noise and health and safety concerns, avoiding the need for fleets of dump trucks to traffic shingle from the quarry all throughout the day.
A single capital-works programme that recharged the beaches in a single "drop" would also provide a stronger, better weathering solution that would not need ongoing (and costly) maintenance for several months of every year.
If you love Dungeness as much as we do then please add your voice to our campaign. Together we will get residents the flood protection they need without devastating the 'ness.