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Eastchurch vegetation 'to save Sheppey cliff-top homes'

image captionResidents said they saw their biggest cliff falls last year

Cliff-top residents have set out to stop their Kent homes from falling over the edge by planting grass and trees to secure eroding clay.

A community group in Eastchurch has applied for permission to stabilise cliffs on Sheppey to protect 16 homes.

Swale Borough Council is funding the £30,000 scheme, which relies on roots holding loose earth together.

The Environment Agency considered a defence scheme but said the number of properties did not justify the cost.

Plans said vegetation could be encouraged to grow by laying biodegradable matting that would enable seedlings to mature without being washed away.

The application said the root systems would also absorb water.

Malcolm Newell, from the Eastchurch Gap Community Group, said residents saw their biggest cliff falls last year, with fences and trees going over the edge.

He added: "We need to protect our homes."

image captionThe community group wants to lay matting to keep seedlings in place while they grow
image captionThey claim trees are already supporting parts of the cliffs

Councillor David Simmons said neither the council or Environment Agency is convinced by the likelihood of the success of the scheme, but council members had wanted to support the community-led initiative.

He said it was very much a trial project and would be reviewed.

The Environment Agency said any government funding needed to demonstrate the benefits of action outweighed costs.

A spokesman said defences in East Sussex had protected 140 properties at a cost of £3.5m with significant local contributions.

He added: "The coastline on the north of the Isle of Sheppey is mainly rural and only includes a small number of houses and caravan parks at risk.

"This area cannot currently justify the millions of pounds required to build and maintain the infrastructure and defences to help manage the rate of cliff erosion recently experienced."

image captionThe Environment Agency said the rural area could not justify the millions of pounds needed for defences

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