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Suffolk coast campaigners braced for flooding blow

PUBLISHED: 06:37 13 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:11 05 July 2010

Campaigners fighting to protect their land and homes from being lost to the sea could be dealt a bitter blow this week if a controversial strategy to stop maintaining flood defences is given the green light.

Campaigners fighting to protect their land and homes from being lost to the sea could be dealt a bitter blow this week if a controversial strategy to stop maintaining flood defences is given the green light.

The Environment Agency's Eastern Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC) will discuss plans for managed retreat in the Blyth estuary, near Southwold, on Friday.

The Environment Agency (EA) wants to stop repairing the flood walls which protect land around Blythburgh, Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick over the next 20 years because it says it cannot afford the £35m needed to maintain them.

At the last RFDC meeting in September, members voted to ask the EA to reconsider its strategy for the estuary.

On Friday, the committee will decide whether the proposals should be forwarded to the EA's National Review Group, which will complete the agency's internal review process before any scheme is finally approved.

Members of the Blyth Estuary Group have been campaigning for some time to protect the mud banks which stop thousands of acres of land, about 20 homes and the A12 trunk road from flooding.

The group has long claimed that material is still being deposited in the estuary, making the banks sustainable for the future. Local landowner and Blyth Estuary Group member Andrew Blois said that new scientific research should prove that erosion will not necessarily damage the mud banks beyond repair.

A draft of the report by independent environment consultants Kenneth Pye and Associates has now been completed and is expected to be discussed at Friday's meeting.

Mr Blois said: "It confirms what we have been saying all along. It means that the walls are as sustainable as they have been for the last 300 years and there is sufficient sedimentation occurring to keep up with the estimated sea level rise for the next 100 years."

However a report for Friday's RFDC meeting said that although the new research will help landowners, like Mr Blois, to decide whether it is viable to maintain the defences, it will "not materially change the proposals within the strategy".

Mr Blois said: "This report says it is perfectly possible to protect the habitats with nothing more than a moderate financial input being needed - it proves what we have said all along and should certainly change the strategy before anything is adopted."

Following the heated debate at September's RFDC meeting, some changes to the strategy have been proposed.

The report said: "We have revisited the strategy to see if there is anything further that could be included to minimise impacts on property owners within the estuary.

"As such we have included a proposal to consider the construction of a ring bank around the affected Ferry Road properties in the post 20-year time frame."


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