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Flood defence fight goes to Parliament

PUBLISHED: 12:20 14 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:52 05 July 2010

Flood defence campaigners are to lobby parliament in what could be a crucial week in their bid to save land and homes from being lost to the sea.

Members of the Blyth Strategy Group, which opposes the Environment Agency's (EA) plans to stop maintaining flood banks in the north Suffolk estuary in the next 20 years, and representatives from local councils will travel to Westminster tomorrow.

Flood defence campaigners are to lobby parliament in what could be a crucial week in their bid to save land and homes from being lost to the sea.

Members of the Blyth Strategy Group, which opposes the Environment Agency's (EA) plans to stop maintaining flood banks in the north Suffolk estuary in the next 20 years, and representatives from local councils will travel to Westminster tomorrow.

The move comes less than a week after environment minister Phil Woolas visited Norfolk communities and told them 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 to the sea.

Now those living around the Blyth estuary and fighting to maintain its earthwall flood defences say they too deserve government reassurance.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk county councillor and chairman of the Blyth Strategy Group, said Mr Woolas's promise to spend £100m on sea defences over the next 50 years should include the Blyth estuary.

“This area is very special and of as much value as the Broads. Places like Walberswick and Southwold are real Suffolk gems and we cannot afford to lose them,” he said.

After months of trying to arrange a meeting with Mr Woolas in Suffolk, Mr McGregor is going to London tomorrow with Andy Smith, deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council, to lobby the environment minister in person.

As well as putting pressure on the government, the Blyth estuary campaigners could soon be in line for good news from overseas.

MEP Geoffrey van Orden, who took a boat trip around the estuary to see the breaches in the earthwalls in February, will meet with European representatives on Thursday to discuss the possibility of securing EU funding to help protect the estuary.

The EA says it will cost millions of pounds to go on repairing the walls - which protect thousands of acres of farmland and 40 homes - and the work will be unsustainable as a result of climate change, rising sea levels and frequency of tidal surges.

Sue Allen, chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, said she was pleased to see the government finally taking positive action on flood defences.

“Relentless pressure from everyone - our groups here in Suffolk and campaigners on the Broads - on all aspects of coastal erosion is starting to pay off. The politicians are starting to change their minds. It's about time they took an interest in coastal erosion and not just inland flooding,” she said.

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