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Estuary group meets minister

PUBLISHED: 11:53 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:53 05 July 2010

FLOOD defence campaigners met with the Environment Minister on Tuesday to voice concerns about plans to abandon thousands of acres of land and 40 homes to the ravages of the sea.

FLOOD defence campaigners met with the Environment Minister on Tuesday to voice concerns about plans to abandon thousands of acres of land and 40 homes to the ravages of the sea.

Members of the Blyth Strategy Group, which opposes proposals to stop maintaining flood defences along the Blyth Estuary in the next 20 years, and representatives from local district councils, spoke with Phil Woolas.

The move comes less than a week after Mr Woolas visited Norfolk and told communities threatened with abandonment to the sea that in spite of draft proposals by Natural England to allow a 25 sq mile area of land to flood, their homes would not be sacrificed.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk county councillor and chairman of the Blyth Strategy Group, said: “We got our point across to the minister and I think he understood our issues. It is clear from the meeting that our concerns should not be directed at the Environment Agency as it is only following Government guidelines - it should be directed at Government.

“As such I am pleased we had this important meeting and I feel the minister listened to us and that he is really trying to do his best in a difficult situation.

“We spoke about the impact flooding would have on the A12, Lowestoft's regeneration and Southwold - the minister seemed genuinely concerned about the extent of the affect flooding will have on our coastal areas. This is a very special area and places like Southwold and Walberswick have a massive affect on Suffolk's tourism and economy and we cannot afford to lose them.”

The proposals to stop maintaining the flood defences along the Blyth Estuary have been put forward by the Environment Agency (EA).

Mr McGregor continued: “We suggested to the minister that a partnership should be formed between the EA and other groups and local people so that locals' knowledge and resources could be drawn upon.

“We suggested that the Blyth could be a trial for a make-do-and-mend strategy - getting funding as and when needed rather than the millions of pounds talked about by the EA and Natural England.

“Although we did not get assurances like Norfolk it was a positive meeting and one we will be following up.”

He added that he and his colleagues had left behind their maps and documents with the minister so that he can study local concerns in more detail.

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