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Group getting first-hand estuary view

PUBLISHED: 11:31 09 January 2008 | UPDATED: 19:23 05 July 2010

Senior councillors opposing plans to abandon flood defences on the river Blyth will take to the waves to view the vulnerable estuary first-hand.

Members of the cross-authority Blyth Strategy Group have requisitioned the Coastal Voyager leisure boat to see for themselves the ravaged river banks and assess the likely impact of Environment Agency (EA) plans to cease the maintenance of the defences.

Senior councillors opposing plans to abandon flood defences on the river Blyth will take to the waves to view the vulnerable estuary first-hand.

Members of the cross-authority Blyth Strategy Group have requisitioned the Coastal Voyager leisure boat to see for themselves the ravaged river banks and assess the likely impact of Environment Agency (EA) plans to cease the maintenance of the defences.

The EA announced its strategy in September to withdraw funding because it could no longer justify the cost of protecting homes and farmland.

The Southwold-based rigid inflatable is more commonly used for sightseeing trips, but will be used to transport councillors from Suffolk County Council, Waveney District Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council on January 21.

The group's vice-chairman, Waveney councillor Simon Tobin, said he hoped the journey would inspire the campaigners to exert pressure on the EA to reconsider its intentions.

“This gives us the opportunity to take senior councillors from across the region to see for themselves the devastation of the walls and the breaches, particularly at Tinker's Marsh,” he said.

“When you consider these walls were built 100 years ago by people without machinery or technical back-up, it seems ridiculous that with modern resources today we cannot maintain riverbanks which are part of our heritage.”

The strategy group will meet at Southwold Sailing Club immediately after the 90-minute trip.

“After showing them the horrific devastation we will sit them down to give them the impetus to do something,” said Mr Tobin.

The flood issues surrounding the Blyth will now fall under the remit of Harvey Bradshaw, who was unveiled as the EA's new regional director on Thursday.

With a public consultation into the flood strategy due to end in February, Mr Bradshaw said he was open to discussions with pressure groups and local authorities, but reinforced the need to allocate funding to the areas where it was needed most.

“However much we spend as a country, we have to make sure the money is directed to the areas of highest risk to people and property,” he said.

“I want to get away from the notion that we make decisions in an office, and give the correct impression that we want to talk to people to explain, and let them challenge our views. We will listen, and if we need to change our proposals then we will.”

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