Near miss shows urgent need for permanent flood defences in Lowestoft, campaigners argue
The near miss of the weekend’s high tides should serve as a reminder of Lowestoft’s urgent need for long-term government funding for permanent flood defences, campaigners have argued.
The town largely escaped problems on Sunday, despite fears it could be flooded as it was following the tidal surge of December 2013 as water levels rose exceptionally high at the Bascule bridge.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Waveney, Bob Blizzard, said: “The high tides are a reminder of just how vulnerable we are.
“We saw the terrible cost of the floods in December 2013 and I think it’s very disappointing that, a year on, the funding is still not in place for us to get on with flood work.”
Environment secretary Liz Truss visited Lowestoft on the first anniversary of the tidal surge to pledge that the town would receive £7million of government funding towards a permanent flood defence scheme.
Suffolk County Council also pledged £3million to the scheme, while cash is also being sought from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
However, £30million is needed for the whole scheme.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said “significant progress” had been made on securing the long-term funding and that confirmation of what funds would be in place is to be expected in the next few weeks.
Asked whether a Labour government would commit funding for flood defences in Lowestoft, Mr Blizzard said: “The budget for flood defences in the region was cut and we opposed that. I expect we would want to restore that pot.”
Sonia Barker, Labour opposition group leader on Waveney District Council, added: “There has been a lot of publicity and a lot of people have come to look at it, but looking at it doesn’t get it paid for and we will pursue that.”
Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee added: “Storm surges are now becoming much more frequent occurrences, so it is clearly important to show the town has prepared safeguards.”
A Waveney District Council spokesman said: “Making sure adequate flood defences are in place is an absolute priority and we have worked extremely hard since the December 2013 floods to improve the defences that were damaged in that storm.
“With nearly £3million in place for South Beach, we are making outstanding progress and our defences are resilient to all but the most exceptional events.
“In addition we are also delighted that we are getting very close to securing the considerable funding required to deliver a permanent flood protection solution for Lowestoft. These schemes are our priority - however, in the interim, we are also working in partnership with the Environment Agency, to seek additional temporary defence measures.
“Initial research into possible solutions indicated that the costs would be in excess of £100,000.
“However, we have now been approached by the EA who are looking to buy in bulk and drive down costs – and this is the route we are pursuing.”
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