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Hengistbury Head

Volume 114: debated on Thursday 23 April 1987

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much grant-aid will be given for coastal protection work to Hengistbury Head.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Donald Thompson)

I am not yet in a position to quote precise figures, but, taking into account the grant previously approved on the first phase of the work, it seems likely that the total grant will be a little under £2·3 million when paid.

Will my hon. Friend accept the grateful thanks of my constituents and of Bournemouth borough council for this grant-aid to prevent further erosion of this important part of our coastal heritage, which is also a valuable tourist attraction? Does he agree that this kind of public expenditure has become available only as a result of the Government's prudent management of our economy? What percentage of the total cost of the coastal protection work does this grant-aid constitute?

I agree that prudent management has made about £13 million available this year for such work. The figure that I quoted for the grant for the first phase of the works represents 63 per cent. I expect that later phases will increase that percentage.

Would this be regarded as a specially-assisted general election area grant?

I notice that the hon. Gentleman has not put in for a grant for his coastline. But if he could, he would. We are spending nearly £1 million in Newbiggin in Northumberland and we hope that that will help us in the election. We are spending £4 million in Blackpool and £2 million in Whitby, and we hope that that will help as well.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the eastern exposed part of Hengistbury Head is in my constituency. Is he aware that the tidal flow around the head has long been presumed to be one of the main causes of the continuing loss of sand on Friars Cliff beach? Will he ensure that when money becomes available—as he has announced today—research into that aspect, which bothers many of my constituents, will be funded out of that or alternative sources?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will have many opportunities over the years to repeat that question, and we will consider it carefully then.