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Pledge on sea defences welcomed

PUBLISHED: 12:46 29 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:38 05 July 2010

COASTAL flood defences will not be abandoned unless it is absolutely necessary, the Environment Agency chairman told campaigners in Suffolk.

Lord Smith met flood defence protesters in Southwold as part of a visit to areas of Suffolk's threatened coastline.

COASTAL flood defences will not be abandoned unless it is absolutely necessary, the Environment Agency chairman told campaigners in Suffolk.

Lord Smith met flood defence protesters in Southwold as part of a visit to areas of Suffolk's threatened coastline.

The Environment Agency (EA) plans to stop maintaining the flood walls around the Blyth Estuary, near Southwold, over the next 20 years because the work would be too costly but Lord Smith said yesterday that defences will be maintained where possible.

He said: “We want to make sure we protect as much as possible. I certainly don't want to abandon anything unless we absolutely have to. I very much want to see the Environment Agency working with local communities, not coming in with pre-conceived ideas but sitting down with people to talk seriously about what the options are and how we can go forward and provide the best possible protection for people.”

In Southwold, he met members of the Blyth Estuary Group who have campaigned against the EA's plans for managed retreat for the last two years.

Group chairman Sue Allen said: “I think the Environment Agency definitely want to move forward by working with local communities. We're very pleased Lord Smith took the time to visit - it really means something that our hard work has made some impact and hopefully we can continue to work together.”

Landowner Andrew Blois, who gave a presentation on behalf of the group, said: “We believe that everything can be saved and that we can maintain the defences for a fraction of the cost which the Environment Agency has predicted. We're very encouraged that he chose to come here.”

Lord Smith travelled by helicopter up the coast from Felixstowe to Easton Bavents, north of Southwold, before being flown over the Blyth Estuary to see the damaged flood walls for himself.

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