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Blow to coastal campaigners

PUBLISHED: 13:23 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:12 05 July 2010

The battle to protect large sections of the north Suffolk coastline from flooding was dealt a huge blow last night after it emerged environment chiefs were set to continue with plans to abandon defences.

The battle to protect large sections of the north Suffolk coastline from flooding was dealt a huge blow last night after it emerged environment chiefs were set to continue with plans to abandon defences.

Protesters have fought a high- profile campaign against the Environment Agency's proposals to stop maintaining flood defences along the Blyth estuary, but appear to be facing a bitter defeat.

A report, which is due to be discussed by Suffolk County Council on Thursday, reveals that the draft proposals for managed retreat of defences along large swathes of the estuary are being put forward for ratification following a long period of public consultation.

The Environment Agency (EA) announced a year ago that it planned to stop maintaining flood walls which protect thousands of acres of land, roads and homes around the Southwold, Walberswick, Reydon and Blythburgh areas. Officials said they could not afford the estimated £35m to repair and maintain the defences.

Guy McGregor, chairman of the Blyth Estuary Strategy Group and a county councillor, said: “The Environment Agency's so-called 'cost-benefit analysis' overstates the costs… It is not a question of huge sums of money. What is required is proper maintenance at a local level.”

Mr McGregor said giving up land to the sea would have a huge impact on the economy of the area, including tourism, Southwold harbour and surrounding roads.

Meanwhile, a new economic regeneration strategy report for Waveney District Council has revealed that abandoning defences, which protect the A12 Lowestoft to Ipswich road from flooding, will spell disaster for the area's businesses. In light of this, the county council has made a bid for £1.6m to raise the A12 by a metre at Blythburgh.

The Eastern Regional Flood Defence Committee will discuss the proposals when it meets in Ipswich on September 26.

The county council report claims there has been a slight change in the Environment Agency's viewpoint, with recognition of the economic case for defence of the northern river wall, which protects Reydon Marsh, the A1095 road between the A12 and Southwold, and the Hen Reed beds. It says the agency is seeking match funding from other organisations to fund rebuilding of this wall.

Environment Agency spokesman Richard Woollard said that, as well as the flood defence committee meeting, officials would hold talks with councillors and community representatives to discuss the way forward.

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