MP hits out at agency's estuary plans

PUBLISHED: 13:09 06 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:13 05 July 2010

THE Environment Agency has been met with strong opposition from residents over its plans to push ahead with a policy of “managed retreat” on the Blyth Estuary.

THE Environment Agency has been met with strong opposition from residents over its plans to push ahead with a policy of “managed retreat” on the Blyth Estuary.

The Environment Agency has confirmed its plans to abandon huge swathes of the Suffolk coast to the sea - despite massive criticism of the plans.

Suffolk County Council has responded by launching a £1.6m bid to heighten a stretch of the A12 at Blythburgh to stop the key link road between Ipswich and Lowestoft flooding.

John Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP and a former Secretary of State for the Environment, said the EA's decision is a disgrace.

“It shows that there was no consultation at all, everybody in the area is entirely opposed to the scheme,” he said. “I think it is very serious because not only is it extremely damaging to the future of Walberswick and Southwold but it also sets an example for the rest of the coast for which, quite clearly, this Government does not care two hoots about.”

Mr Gummer said Suffolk County Council was left with no choice but to raise a stretch of the A12.

“In a sense it is shifting the cost from the Environment Agency to the Highways Agency and the county council can do nothing else because we cannot have a situation in which Lowestoft is cut off for days on end because of flooding.”

Local landowner Andrew Blois, who is a member of the Blyth Estuary Group, said he was disappointed.

“We have said that we can protect that upstream defence at Blyth Estuary for a fraction of the £1.6m that Suffolk County Council is saying its needs to spend raising the A12. This area can be protected in a cost effective manner. It is not a financial or an engineering issue, it is a government issue. It is not managed retreat, it is abandonment.”

The Country Land and Business Association has also hit out at the EA by saying it was making a move that would leave property and farm land vulnerable to flooding.

CLA regional director Nicola Currie said: “We need flexibility and a 'can do' attitude to contain the problem in the short-term until all the facts are fully established if we are to avoid failing to look to the interests of future generations.”

Richard Woollard, media manager with the EA, said the Blyth strategy would be discussed by the Eastern Region Flood Defence Committee when it meets in Ipswich on September 26.

He added: “Regarding Reydon wall, we have always recognized that there is an economic case to maintain it but it is not a high enough priority when judged against other national priorities to attract national funding to rebuild the wall.”

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