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Make-do-and-mend coastal protection

PUBLISHED: 10:33 11 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:20 06 July 2010

COASTAL protection in the region may fall victim to deep public spending cuts, leaving people to repair their own defences, a former MP has warned.

John Gummer said that people with land and homes by the sea may need to "make do and mend" because multi-million-pound "Rolls Royce answers" would be put on the back-burner.

COASTAL protection in the region may fall victim to deep public spending cuts, leaving people to repair their own defences, a former MP has warned.

John Gummer said that people with land and homes by the sea may need to “make do and mend” because multi-million-pound “Rolls Royce answers” would be put on the back-burner.

Mr Gummer, former MP for Suffolk Coastal and president of Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (Scar), said new local initiatives and alternative strategies such as tyre walls and using willow may have to be considered.

Along the Suffolk coast, sea defences at towns and villages are due to be maintained as part of the draft Shoreline Management Plan. But some areas - such as Covehithe, south of Lowestoft - could be surrendered to the sea and people there are already looking at building their own defences.

Edward Vere Nicoll, manager of the The Benacre Estate, which includes most of Covehithe, said they were losing 16 acres a year over the 3.5 miles of coast.

The estate wants to put in adaptive defence and safety measures including chestnut pale fences, marram grass, and protection, including sediment roped together and lined beneath the beach.

Mr Vere Nicoll said they needed permission from Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

“To be able to do it, we have to fulfil certain criteria and that's why we've come up with something like this; there will still be sediment shift, birds can still nest on it and the coast will still erode, but at a reduced rate,” he said.

“We just want to stop the massive land loss during storms.”

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Alde and Ore Association, Mr Gummer, who has now taken on a new role as an environment and climate change consultant, said organisations such as Natural England and the RSPB would need to compromise to allow coastal defence and renewal energy schemes to proceed, as well as saving wildlife and habitat.

“We have a system which says where we will be in 100 years' time and then look at building something we expect to last 50 years, which is ludicrous - and we have a budget for three years, which is manifest nonsense,” he said.

“We don't know what is going to happen in 100 years. Twenty years is far enough away - the longest period in which you could make a reasonable assumption.

“I think we are going to have a period where make do and mend will be very important - the Environment Agency's Rolls Royce answers to things are not going to happen.”

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