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Flood breaches on the Blyth

PUBLISHED: 10:47 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 19:29 05 July 2010

Ageing floods defences near Southwold on the River Blyth.

Ageing floods defences near Southwold on the River Blyth.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting proposals to abandon flood defences along the Blyth estuary in north Suffolk have boldly pledged to carry on their battle after taking to the water to see the latest devastating damage.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting proposals to abandon flood defences along the Blyth estuary in north Suffolk have boldly pledged to carry on their battle after taking to the water to see the latest devastating damage.

Elected politicians, council officers and protesters braved a bleak January afternoon to tour the under-threat area by boat - and saw just how vulnerable it is.

It is estimated that there have been about 15 breaches in the estuary's flood defences since the tidal surge of early November, and one gaping hole at Tinker's Marsh has revealed the huge challenges ahead.

The Environment Agency has announced plans to withdraw the maintenance of defences over the next 20 years, leaving homes, businesses, land and roads under threat in the Southwold, Walberswick and Blythburgh areas.

Officials claim it would cost a staggering £40m to preserve the defences over the next century, but campaigners say the wider impact on tourism, roads and the environment has not been taken into account. There are also fears for the future of Southwold harbour.

Simon Tobin, Waveney District councillor vice-chairman of the newly-formed Blyth Strategy Group, said: “The idea was to take people out to show them how bad the breaches in the flood defences are. It is horrific and we can't just roll over and let this happen; once we let them go they can never be returned.

“It's been a good exercise in getting people together to refocus their efforts. We are adopting a zero tolerance policy because it is the only way. Southwold is one of the best seaside resorts in the country and our tourism industry is going to be completely devastated. The town could become an island.”

David Collins, the Environment Agency's project executive for the Blyth Estuary strategy, said: “The walls around the estuary are getting to the point where we need to spend a substantial amount to rebuild them. We are looking at £40m and we haven't got that sort of money.”

He added he could not justify the use of public money to repair defences at Tinker's Marsh because maintenance was scheduled to be withdrawn in two years, even before the November tidal surges. He also said the decision to allow Tinker's Marsh to flood would reduce pressure on more sensitive land, including sections carrying major roads.

Sue Allen, a district councillor and chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, went out on the boat on Monday and said: “It was a bit of a shock, but everybody is working hard to go in the same direction.”

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