LONDON  : Nearly two million cubic metres of sand is being shifted to a stretch of eroding Norfolk coastline in a radical plan to save it from the sea.

The 6km-long dune will protect Bacton Terminal, which supplies one third of the UK’s gas, but is teetering just metres from a cliff edge.

The £20m project should also act as a defence for two nearby villages - Bacton and Walcott.

It is the first “sandscaping” scheme on this scale to be carried out in the UK.

It has been designed by Dutch engineering company Royal HaskoningDHV.

Jaap Flikweert, their flood and coastal management advisor, told BBC News: “We aren’t just tinkering at the edges here, we are doing something really different.

“The problem is so big and so unsolvable it needs something radical: it needs a massive volume of sand, and then using the wind and waves and the tides to move the sand to where it needs to be over time to provide 15-20 years of protection.”

A dredger filled with sand connects to the shore with a long pipe

The scheme has just started, and it is expected to take about five weeks to get all of the sand into place.

In a 24-hour operation, carried out by the Dutch maritime company Van Oord, a dredging vessel is collecting the sand from further along the coast at a licensed site where sediment is currently extracted for concrete.