Residents will challenge moves to flood a beauty spot.

The future of Cuckmere Haven will be decided at a meeting tomorrow where the possibility of reducing sea defences at the site will be considered.

The meeting will consider several future scenarios at the beauty spot including allowing a controlled flooding to create a saltmarsh in the estuary.

The move has been backed by wildlife charities to create habitats for wetland birds but residents have long opposed the plan.

They argue that the plans will put residents’ property at risk, destroy public footpaths and beaches used by thousands of visitors and pose a flooding risk to the A259 and nearby Alfriston.

The managed realignment of the site, which is favoured by the Cuckmere Estuary Partnership which includes local councils, the Environment Agency and the National Trust, is one of the options on the table.

Other possibilities include maintaining existing sea defences or doing nothing and allowing the sea to shape the land.

In 2008, the Environment Agency ruled that public money cannot be spent on sustaining the existing defences with no homes at risk of flooding in the area.

It is estimated the cost of building and maintaining the defences over 100 years would be about £18 million.

Des Abbot, a long-term resident on the headland, said: “I would like to see the valley maintained for another 50 years and wait and see what happens with climate change.

“These Coastguard cottages have been here since the 1840s and if you lose them you take something away from the view of the Seven Sisters.

“What’s annoying is that this whole process has cost about £750,000 already which could have been spent to maintain the defences.”

Andy Robertson, assistant director of the economy, transport and environment department at East Sussex County Council, said: “The Pathfinder Project is all about working in partnership and together agreeing the best approach to managing flood risk at the Cuckmere.

“The council will use the community's decision as the basis for its future planning.”

Samantha Dawes, of the RSPB South East, said: “Restoring the estuary would provide a far richer type of habitat which would support a variety of wetland birds.”

The event will be held at Alfriston War Memorial Hall from 12.30pm to 7.00pm tomorrow.

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