‘Fantastic news’: £43m funding to protect town for a century
- Credit: Archant
It has been hailed as a ‘once in a century’ opportunity that will safeguard the future of a coastal town.
A tidal flood barrier will be built in Lowestoft’s outer harbour, along with tidal flood walls to the north and south of the barrier, to protect the town from flooding and provide much needed protection to hundreds of homes and businesses.
It comes as East Suffolk Council was awarded an “incredible funding boost” of £43,486,439 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – the largest single award to any project in the country – to build a 100-year flood protection scheme for Lowestoft.
Forming part of £170 million being provided by the government to 22 flood defence projects across the UK, the council said that the Lowestoft flood defence scheme will “provide certainty for the prospects of the town, galvanising its huge economic potential and heralding a bright and secure future for residents and businesses.”
With the council developing a regeneration plan for Lowestoft, they said that flood risk “has constrained economic growth in the town” as the viability of key regeneration sites has been damaged while 825 businesses and hundreds more homes are threatened.
In December 2013 the “devastating” storm surge caused havoc along the east coast – with Lowestoft one of the worst-affected communities.
Back then, 158 residential and 233 commercial properties were flooded in the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad area while tidal flooding resulted in the closure of key transportation links.
In recent years the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Programme (LFRMP) has been seeking the funding it needs to deliver a scheme that will “significantly reduce the risk to economic activity, jobs, utilities, key infrastructure and energy operations for 100 years,” according to the council.
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With the project having now been given the green light, the funding will deliver a tidal barrier and flood walls to protect key infrastructure and businesses and boost the offshore energy and tourism sectors.
An innovative flood protection scheme will also see glass flood walls built at South Pier featuring words and artwork designed by schoolchildren.
With work expected to get under way next year, the project has been welcomed by Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
Mr Aldous said: “The scheme will encourage businesses to expand and move in to the area, including in the offshore energy and fishing sectors, will protect the town centre at a time that we need to be driving forward a renaissance in the high street, and will safeguard vital infrastructure, such as the railway station.”
In January, Waveney MP Peter Aldous spoke in the House of Commons during an adjournment debate about the need to provide funding for the final phase of works for the Lowestoft Tidal Flood Barrier.
Stressing the vital importance of the project, he said: “The construction of the Lowestoft flood barrier will be a catalyst for the regeneration of the town.
“This is not just a barrier in name, but in its impact: it removes barriers to growth.”
Of the funding announcement, Mr Aldous said: “The Government’s announcement of £43 million to complete the Lowestoft Flood Defence Project, including the provision of flood walls and a tidal barrier, is extremely welcome.
“It will protect those homes and businesses that were devastated in the storm surge of December 5, 2013, in which 158 homes and 233 commercial properties in Lowestoft and Oulton Broad were flooded, and many people were made homeless and lost all their possessions.
“Lowestoft is going to be incredibly busy in the next few years, with both this project and the building of the Third Crossing.
“In the short term this will provide a much needed boost to the local economy and in the long term it will lay the foundations for an exciting future, in which we must ensure that local people obtain the maximum benefit.
“It is so important on so many levels given it is a comprehensive package that it also addresses the fluvial flooding at Kirkley Stream after 33 homes in Aldwyck Way and Velda Close were flooded after heavy rainfall in July 2015.
“The fact that the funding is now all in place to get on with it is fantastic news.”
Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council, added: “Lowestoft, the UK’s most easterly town, is at the centre of the world’s largest market for offshore wind energy. Lowestoft Port supports billions of pounds worth of offshore projects plus international trade. However, Lowestoft has had no formal flood defences and was severely impacted by the 2013 storm surge. The tidal barrier and sea walls will prevent the devastating floods we experienced in December 2013 happening again.
“The Prime Minister promised to build back better, build back faster and build back greener.
“Lowestoft will be at the heart of this with its contribution to the country’s green energy through the increasing development of the wind energy sector operating out of its Port.
“As a result of this very welcome news we will be able, alongside our partners Suffolk County Council, the Environment Agency and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership to build Lowestoft’s future without the fear of flooding from the sea, providing confidence to developers and investors.
“We see the award of this funding from Government as heralding a new economic dawn for our town and our people and businesses.
“They deserve this after the devastating floods of 2013 and the recent COVID 19 pandemic.”
East Suffolk Council chief executive Stephen Baker Tweeted: “This is brilliant news - such a boost for Lowestoft, and a huge pledge of confidence in the town, which is one to watch in years to come!”
Coastal Partnership East Tweeted: “Looking forward to unlocking a brighter, more resilient future for Lowestoft.”
The Suffolk Growth Programme Board Tweeted: “Fantastic news for Lowestoft to help unlock greater economic prosperity in the town!”
Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project background
The Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project was launched to develop a way forward “to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea, rivers and from extreme rainfall.”
During the December 2013 tidal surge more than 160 homes and businesses in Lowestoft were flooded, with road and rail networks significantly disrupted.
With the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project targeting a completion date in 2025, it states that when finished the project “will support the economic growth and regeneration of Lowestoft and reduce the risk of flooding to existing homes and businesses.”
It adds: “The extent of the area at risk of tidal flooding encompasses the area from the Outer Harbour entrance through Lake Lothing to the A1117 Bridge Road crossing and Mutford Lock, which forms the boundary with Oulton Broad.
“This will include building a new tidal barrier and raised new or improved flood walls to provide protection from flooding from the sea.
“The main area of importance for the work needed to reduce the risk of flooding from rivers and extreme rainfall will focus on the Kirkley area, which unfortunately flooded during 2015.”
Lowestoft has been particularly hard hit by significant flooding over the years.
The 1953 floods caused devastation and loss of life along the east coast. In Lowestoft, the Beach Village had to be pulled down as hundreds of families lost their homes and their families’ fishing heritage.
The 2013 storm surge saw Lowestoft become one of the worst-affected communities.
Homes and businesses on St John’s Road, Marine Parade and London Road South in Kirkley, Bevan Street, London Road North and Station Square in Lowestoft and in Oulton Broad were among many badly hit as the impact affected many people and their properties.
In July 2015 more than 30 homes in Aldwyck Way, Velda Close and Long Road were flooded after heavy rainfall – “described as a one in 40-year event” – overwhelmed Kirkley stream and drainage systems resulting in significant flooding.
Householders were left distraught after waist-high water flooded 33 homes, with considerable damage caused to areas surrounding the Kirkley stream.
Heavy rainfall also caused further damage to homes in the Kirkley stream area in October 2019, with “devastating” knee-high water flooding homes with dozens of families evacuated.
The mayor of Lowestoft has welcomed the Government’s investment of more than £43m to deliver the Lowestoft Flood Defence Project.
The multi-million-pound investment will deliver a tidal barrier and flood walls in the town to protect key infrastructure and businesses as well as providing a boost to the offshore energy and tourism sectors.
Of the funding announcement, the mayor of Lowestoft, Alan Green, said: “This exciting investment gives us, residents, partners and businesses the certainty we need to make even more of the country’s most easterly town.
“This funding is essential to protect economically, environmentally and socially significant areas and help this wonderful town to grow and thrive.”
Speaking specifically about the flooding that affected residents over the years, Cllr Green added: “Flooding has a devastating impact on families and investment in protecting homes has been much needed and is much welcomed.”
It comes as works to the Kirkley Stream flood wall and pumping station – to reduce flood risk to homes in Velda Close and Aldwyck Way in Lowestoft – get under way.
Businesses in Station Square, London Road North and Bevan Street were among the many properties in Lowestoft affected by the storm surge in December 2013.
With the Lowestoft Vision Business Improvement District (BID) working in partnership with Suffolk Chamber of Commerce as they oversee the town’s commercial and cultural hub, there was a warm welcome for the £43m tidal barrier funding announcement.
John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “This grant is a vindication of the broad-based campaign in which both Suffolk Chamber and Lowestoft Vision had a key role in ensuring that the interests of the business community were understood and appreciated.
“In these challenging times, anything which minimises risk for local businesses is a boost to Lowestoft’s economy.”