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Summit date for sea defence groups

PUBLISHED: 10:47 13 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:23 05 July 2010

Groups battling plans to abandon flood defences along the Blyth Estuary in north Suffolk group are set to hold a crucial meeting so they can formulate a joint strategy to rattle the cages of government ministers.

Groups battling plans to abandon flood defences along the Blyth Estuary in north Suffolk group are set to hold a crucial meeting so they can formulate a joint strategy to rattle the cages of government ministers.

They will meet at Southwold Pier on June 13 to share ideas about how to force a U-turn in the Environment Agency's controversial proposals to withdraw maintenance of defences along the beautiful estuary over the next two decades.

While an official consultation period has come to an end, angry protesters want to ensure the government and Environment Agency realise the huge impact failing to maintain defences will have.

Guy McGregor, chairman of the Blyth Strategy Group, said: “It's such a serious matter and the implications have got to be driven home to the politicians and make sure that when a decision is made it will be based on hard facts.

“We have put up a robust opposition and we don't believe that the Environment Agency has looked at all the options. If we put up a powerful case we hope the politicians will answer us.”

The Environment Agency insists it cannot afford the £40m to preserve the defences over the next century, but people from the Southwold, Reydon, Walberswick and Reydon areas have angrily fought back, sparking a huge response during the consultation period.

Land, homes, roads and businesses will all be threatened by the abandonment of flood defences and local groups have already taken to boats to carry out their own repairs.

The strength of public opinion was displayed earlier this year when hundreds of people converged on Walberswick to take part in a protest in which they formed the letters SOS on the beach.

Mr McGregor said it was hoped representatives from groups in neighbouring counties, including Norfolk, would attend next month's meeting to add extra weight to the campaign and share good ideas.

“We are going to share all our work and discuss the way forward,” he added. “There has got to be a common strategy for coastal defence so we don't get picked off one by one.

The defences have been looked after for hundreds of years and now it seems the government is walking away. We don't feel the wider issue of the impact on the economy of the area has been taken into account.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency confirmed there had been a “huge” response to the public consultation and it was not yet known when the final decision would be made.

She added that the agency welcomed a public debate about the issues.

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