Residents at Sovereign Harbour are in limbo over the controversial Harbour Charges.
Every year, householders are hit with a bill for flood defences, which many believe to be unfair. The charge is now due, but homes are yet to receive the bill, leaving them wondering if they have to pay or not.
MP Caroline Ansell, who has been working to find a way out of the fees, has said, "Although the harbour charge is now in its second decade and each household has a legally binding commitment to paying it, I have always believed it be an inherently flawed charge. I have campaigned alongside the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) and your County Councillor David Elkin for a fairer deal since 2014.
“In 2015, the Secretary of State came to the Waterfront to hear campaigners. She then called the Environment Agency (EA) to Westminster to meet with us and hear our challenge.
“Following that, the EA was charged to review the current sea defence strategy and answer the charge: do sovereign sea defences provide 'cross subsidy'? ie in part, pay for other homes across the area to be protected. Is the current strategy the most efficient and cost effective way to provide protection?
“We have challenged the lawfulness of the changes to the 1988 Southern Water Agreement in 2001, and have obtained opinion of counsel that it is indeed unlawful. The EA's legal department has always supported the current arrangements around maintaining sea defences and how that is financed. We pushed the EA to seek a second, independent, opinion, which it did; it did not differ in its conclusions to those originally stated. Whether the SHRA wants to pursue a legal challenge through the courts remains an option, and their Barrister believes there are strong grounds
“On a different tact, Councillor Elkin and I are working locally to negotiate a longer term, more sustainable sea defence scheme which takes in a far greater sweep of coastline than the 800m of the Sovereign Harbour development and, one which brings in Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC). EBC is the authority responsible for sea defences and they maintain Eastbourne defences by way of grant and EA bids.
“I will be working with your local councillors and with my parliamentary neighbour Huw Merriman who represents Bexhill Battle to further this wider work
“With the assurance of my continuing commitment to seeing a fairer deal."