£67m project to protect 1500 homes and 825 businesses from floods
- Credit: Mick Howes
A "vital" multi-million-pound scheme of works to protect a coastal town has taken a significant step forward.
A special groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the start of construction works to reduce the risk of flooding to more than 1,500 homes and 825 businesses in Lowestoft.
Heralding a brighter future for the town, the first phase of construction began with "the first shovel in the ground" on May 21 as part of the £67m scheme that will deliver tidal flood walls and a tidal barrier.
With the scheme being carried out as part of the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project (FRMP), it was established after the December 2013 tidal surge to develop a way forward "to reduce the risk of flooding from the sea, rivers and from extreme rainfall."
Waveney MP Peter Aldous and other key project partners dug the ground in Hamilton Road, Lowestoft to formally start the first phase of work that underpins the town's future.
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Mr Aldous said: "This is a very, very special day.
"I am delighted to be here to put that first shovel into the ground.
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"After the 1953 floods and storm surge of December 2013 had devastated businesses, homes and communities it was very clear that we needed this flood defence scheme."
With Lowestoft being the only urbanised coastal area in the UK with no formal flood defences, the flood risk has been a constraint to economic growth in the town.
But now, with the tidal flood barrier to built in Lowestoft’s outer harbour - due for completion in spring 2026 - work is under way on the tidal flood walls to the north and south of the barrier that will protect the town from flooding.
The tidal flood walls will be a combination of fixed concrete flood walls, flood gates and demountable defences, which are due to be completed by May 2022.
Meanwhile, works on a localised flood defence scheme around Kirkley Stream in the area of Velda Close and Aldwyck Way in Lowestoft are set to be completed soon.
David Ritchie, East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for planning and coastal management and chairman of the Project Board, said: “The Lowestoft sea walls will form a key part of the regeneration of our most easterly town and will pave the way for the new tidal barrier."
C-J Green, chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This work is of vital importance to Lowestoft, protecting businesses, homes and infrastructure from the kind of flooding we saw in 2013."
The ceremony included speeches from C-J Green, Cllr Ritchie, Mr Aldous, Suffolk County councillor James Reeder, chairman of the Anglia (Eastern) regional flood and coastal committee Paul Hayden, East Suffolk Council chief executive Stephen Baker along with Tamzen Pope and Karen Thomas from the Lowestoft FRMP.