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Ray of hope for flood defences

PUBLISHED: 10:51 27 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:23 05 July 2010

Damaged flood defences on the River Blyth at Southwold in January.

Damaged flood defences on the River Blyth at Southwold in January.

Villagers fighting to protect their land and homes from being lost to the sea were offered a glimmer of hope yesterday.

The Environment Agency's Eastern Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC) met to discuss plans to abandon flood defences around the Blyth estuary in north Suffolk.

Damaged flood defences on the River Blyth at Southwold in January.

Villagers fighting to protect their land and homes from being lost to the sea were offered a glimmer of hope yesterday.

The Environment Agency's Eastern Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC) met to discuss plans to abandon flood defences around the Blyth estuary in north Suffolk.

The Environment Agency (EA) wants to stop repairing the flood walls, which protect land and property around Blythburgh, Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick, because it says it cannot afford the £35m needed to maintain them.

The RFDC yesterday looked at submissions which have been received during the year-long consultation process and asked the EA to reconsider its strategy for the estuary.

Anthony Coe, RFDC chairman, said: “The EA has taken the consultation responses to the strategy extremely seriously and has put in a lot of work to alter the strategy where possible to take account of them.

“But the committee has asked the EA to have another look at the strategy to take better account of the work being done in partnership on the Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan and a study looking in detail at Southwold harbour.”

Speaking after the meeting, Guy McGregor, county councillor and chairman of the Blyth Strategy Group, said: “This was a very positive outcome - at its very first public airing these proposals fell at the first hurdle. I believe the committee understood that this strategy does not have the backing of local people.”

Sue Allen, chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, said that Waveney District Council is planning to continue work with MEP Geoffrey Van Orden to secure European funding for the defences and work around Southwold harbour.

Charles Beardall, the EA's eastern region manager, said: “It would be easy to say that the committee did not support the strategy, but that is not really the case. We will now take on board the committee's recommendations.”

Aspects of the strategy will be reviewed by the EA and then go through an internal approval process, which could take 12 months.

A strategy for the estuary will then be formally adopted and reviewed again after five years.

The RFDC also welcomed Suffolk County Council's bid for funding from the Highways Agency to raise the A12 and asked the EA to continue to support the council to help the bid to be successful.

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