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Tide of woe is faced by coast towns

PUBLISHED: 08:54 14 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:31 05 July 2010

POORLY paid jobs, run-down towns and the increasing threat of rising sea levels will cause major problems for communities around the Suffolk and Norfolk coast if solutions cannot be found quickly, environment chiefs said last night.

POORLY paid jobs, run-down towns and the increasing threat of rising sea levels will cause major problems for communities around the Suffolk and Norfolk coast if solutions cannot be found quickly, environment chiefs said last night.

The East of England Coastal Initiative, which is billed as the first programme to bring together government officials, local councils, voluntary groups and businesses to tackle coastal problems, was launched in Lowestoft yesterday.

The project will allow the groups to work together, access more funding and provide better solutions to problems including employment, deprivation, erosion and flooding.

An investigation by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) has revealed that the east of England's coastal districts, which have a combined population of 1.6 million people, generate £24bn for the UK economy each year and the evidence was presented to the conference at the Orbis Energy centre.

East of England minister Barbara Follett, who will champion the initiative in central government, said: “We have significant deprivation in our coastal communities. The under performing of skills levels will keep people much poorer than they need to be.

“There is not enough aspiration among kids and not enough application once they get into schools. Deprivation also arises from a lack of access to NHS services and other things, like the closure of post offices.”

The initative will bring together representatives from the Environment Agency, local councils, Natural England, the East of England Development Agency, East of England Regional Assembly (Eera), and the Government Office for the East of England (Go East).

It is hoped that joined-up working will mean programmes are put in place faster and that money from different budgets will be available to fund regeneration and flood defence schemes.

Paul Woodcock, the Environment Agency's regional director, said: “We've got a bit of a pressure cooker around the coast at the moment, with a metre of sea level rise forecast over coming years and our defences need to be adapted to cope with that.

“We have got the biggest pot of money of any of these agencies to try to deal with climate change, but despite that money we are not going to be able to protect everybody out there. We need to adapt where we can.”

Natural England's regional director Shaun Thomas said that the area's salt marshes and beaches are already under threat from flooding.

“We're not in a position where we can sit and do nothing. We will only achieve this by working together - otherwise we will end up with a handful of solutions which will not work,” he said.

The partners, including South Norfolk, Waveney and North Norfolk District Councils and Norfolk County Council, will now look at Eeda's evidence about coastal problems and agree on ways to deal with the problems.

Meanwhile, Mrs Follett said that a lack of aspiration among young people will cause coastal communities to be stuck in a cycle of deprivation.

She said that poorly paid jobs and underachieving children are two of the biggest problems facing those living around the Suffolk and Norfolk coast.

She said that a modern culture, which promotes fames and wealth above hard work, is limiting levels of aspiration among school children.

“Kids nowadays just want to be famous. If you ask little girls, they either want to be footballers' wives or win the X Factor. Our society is in danger of being Barbie-dolled.

“I would like to see communities getting engaged in changing this. I would like school teachers to get kids involving in what we are doing and make them realise what a contribution they have to make,” she said.

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