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Plea to maintain sea defences

PUBLISHED: 13:18 28 January 2008 | UPDATED: 19:35 05 July 2010

THE Environment Agency can maintain flood defences at the Blyth Estuary for a fraction of the £40 million it claims it will cost, a campaign group has said.

THE Environment Agency can maintain flood defences at the Blyth Estuary for a fraction of the £40 million it claims it will cost, a campaign group has said.

The Blyth Estuary Group (BEG) claims clay walls built 400 years ago need only to be reinstated at a cost of thousands of pounds - not the £40 million which the Environment Agency (EA) estimates.

The group argues the walls, which have survived tidal surges and a sea-level rise of 1.3m, have been left ineffective because the Environment Agency (EA) hasn't maintained them.

The BEG says that it has undertaken a comprehensive survey which shows the “shocking state” the EA has allowed the clay wall defences to become - in some cases more than half a metre below their design level.

Sue Allen, Chairman of the BEG, said: “If the walls are not repaired then the erosion in Southwold Harbour will rapidly increase resulting the loss of the whole harbour and significant parts of neighbouring Walberswick in a few short years.

“The loss of this timeless and picturesque place is not only an offence to the heart but a potential catastrophe to the local burgeoning tourist industry.”

She added: “The BEG is merely calling on the EA to make up for 40 years of mismanagement and reinstate the clay walls to their 1965 design height, not to implement an overly expensive defence plan which surpasses the requirements of the river.”

The group say the material is on site as it was 400 years ago and is “truly sustainable”.

Dr Charles Beardall, area manager for the EA, said the agency had spent more than £35,000 a year on the Blyth Estuary for the past 10 years.

He added: “We have a set way of assessing whether something is economically viable or not and we estimated that to re-build the walls on the Blyth Estuary it will cost £35million. It is a national pot of money and we just cannot justify spending that money on the Blyth Estuary when that money is needed to protect thousands of properties across the country.”

The EA is currently in a consultation period of a draft strategy for the maintenance of flood defences within the Blyth Estuary which ends on February 29.

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