The fine sands of St Ives: lost by computer

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The Independent Online
THE fine beaches of the Cornish holiday resort of St Ives have long been a source of local pride and so its inhabitants are not amused that somebody has taken away 50,000 tons of their sand and lost it.

According to a computer simulation exercise carried out by South West Water the sand should have stayed where it was dumped after being dug from a 14ft-deep half-mile long trench outside St Ives harbour.

They put it a mile out to sea while workmen laid an undersea sewerage pipe. But time and tide wait for no man and are certainly not inclined to take any notice of computers. When the water company went back to its underwater sand castle to scoop it up and put it back, most of it had been washed away. The pipeline trench will now be allowed to fill in naturally.

Local people, who had warned South West Water that this would happen, are unhappy to be proved right. They believe that the natural infilling will come from local beaches, which have recently lost up to three metres of sand in places.

William Thomas, a town councillor, said: "What they have done is take away in a matter of weeks what it has taken nature thousands of years to put there."

Councillors also say that the trench, 50 metres from the harbour mouth and covered only by shallow water at low tide, will be a danger to anglers and bathers until it is filled in. Fishermen are unhappy because they allege that dumping 50,000 tons of sterile sand has played havoc with their catches. Recently, 10 fishing boats blockaded contractors working on the pipeline in protest.

Heather Gilling, for South West Water, said: "Some of the material has disappeared. The expert advice we have is that the remainder of the trench should fill in naturally." The authority says that local fears about the beaches and fishing are groundless and that the pipeline is part of a £100 million sewerage project which will clean up the sea around West Cornwall.

Local councillors, who have written to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to protest about the situation, are worried that sewage from a newly constructed outfall will flow back into the bay around St Ives.

What really unnerves them about this possibility is that the computer which made the prediction about the sand has decreed that this cannot possibly happen.