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Conference maps out coastal change

PUBLISHED: 09:10 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:29 05 July 2010

THE huge challenges facing the region's coastal communities will come under the spotlight today when a major new initiative is mapped out.

Delegates at a conference in Lowestoft will focus on the East of England Coastal Initiative launched to address issues such as erosion, deprivation and unemployment.

THE huge challenges facing the region's coastal communities will come under the spotlight today when a major new initiative is mapped out.

Delegates at a conference in Lowestoft will focus on the East of England Coastal Initiative launched to address issues such as erosion, deprivation and unemployment.

The initiative is billed as the first of its kind in the country and brings together government officials, local councils, voluntary groups and the business sector in a bid to formulate a new strategy to tackle a wide range of economic and social problems.

Today's conference at the Orbis Energy centre will hear the results of a new investigation into the issues facing the east's coastal communities covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Barbara Follett, Minister for the East of England, said: “Its inhabitants count themselves lucky to live there but despite being surrounded by great beauty and diversity, they are facing some very real challenges.

“Not least among these are the pockets of deprivation to be found in many local communities, the difficulties people have accessing transport, jobs and health services and, in particular the effect coastal erosion is having on homes and businesses.

“These challenges are complex and multi-faceted with no easy solutions. That is why the coastal initiative is so important. It provides a really good way for the region to pool its expertise and resources to find really effective ways of tackling these issues in the short, medium and long-term.”

Mrs Follett is seeking support for the initiative from key government departments and the next phase will involve coastal decision-makers agreeing on ways to tackle problems and then delivering these measures.

An investigation by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) has revealed that the east's coastal districts, which have a combined population of 1.6 million people, generate £24bn for the UK economy each year.

“As such, our coastal communities are huge contributors to the overall success of the region,” said Kate Haigh, senior executive for sustainable development at Eeda.

“However, our coastal areas face major challenges. The areas under-perform on most measures of economic vitality when compared to the East of England as a whole.

“In particular, some areas suffer from deprivation and perennial unemployment, and are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change, water stress, coastal erosion and flooding.”

Key delivery partners of the initiative include the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East), Eeda, the East of England Regional Assembly (Eera), Natural England, the Environment Agency, English Partnerships, Sustainability East, Suffolk Coastal District Council and Norfolk County Council.

Ian Monson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for the environment, said: “This initiative has been born from recognition among its partners that much more can be achieved, both in solving problems and seizing opportunities, if agencies and decision-makers work together rather than in isolation.”

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