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Help plea for flood-risk homeowners

PUBLISHED: 21:37 01 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:41 05 July 2010

A CAMPAIGN group is calling for people facing an increased flood risk to their homes to be given the same level of care and compensation as wildlife.

The Suffolk Preservation Society welcomed the pledge by Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, to protect as much of Suffolk's unique coastline as possible.

A CAMPAIGN group is calling for people facing an increased flood risk to their homes to be given the same level of care and compensation as wildlife.

The Suffolk Preservation Society welcomed the pledge by Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, to protect as much of Suffolk's unique coastline as possible.

But the society said that local communities must be given a much larger say in future plans to save land “essential to the county's economy” and that people facing the loss of their homes or property should be afforded the same “care attention and compensation” as wildlife.

Under European law, wildlife habitat lost to coastal erosion and flooding has to be replaced elsewhere. However, there is no compensation scheme for property owners.

The SPS said it believes local communities are being given too little say in vital flood and erosion management plans which would have a huge effect on the future of Suffolk's estuaries, coastline and important agricultural land.

Richard Ward, the society's director, said the public consultation currently being carried out on managing future risk to the county's coast failed to give ownership to local people and could not therefore ever hope to win their backing.

There did not appear to be an overall policy in place for managing the county's coastlines and estuaries - a state of affairs which could ultimately lead to the loss of vast areas of valuable land and affect the region's economy, he claimed.

“Suffolk has both a coastline and estuaries of great beauty and importance but which are likely to suffer adversely from flooding, the impacts of climate change, and from managed retreat.

“We welcome Lord Smith's pledge to protect as much of the coastline as possible and truly hope his promise to work closely with local communities to find a long-term solution is genuine.

“We believe local people should be at the heart of such decisions as the in depth knowledge which they have can often bring so much more to a proposal than any sophisticated risk management assessment,” Mr Ward said.

The society has previously called for a review of compensation rules so that landowners could be properly recompensed should they lose their home or valuable farmland.

People should be given “the same amount of care, attention and compensation as is afforded to wildlife,” Mr Ward said.

“It is hugely inconsistent to find alternative sites for displaced wildlife under a managed retreat scheme and not for people. How on earth can this be justified?

“It also seems that insufficient thought or consideration has been given to the potential loss of important agricultural land, which is essential to the country's economy, food production and sustainable living agenda.”

Dafydd Evans, area manager for the Environment Agency, said that working with communities was fundamentally important in looking forward to managing the coast.

“We will continue to work with local communities as we have always done, and which has been acknowledged before. We see it as vitally important in the work that we do,” he said.

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