March 12 2014 Latest news:
Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A section of the flood-damaged Norfolk Coastal Path must be fixed before Easter to protect the local economy, according to a community chief.
Tony Faulkner, chairman of Blakeney Parish Council, will be pressing the case for reinstating the path at a drop-in afternoon on Thursday, February 13, organised by the Environment Agency (EA).
The path runs along the sea bank, between Blakeney and Cley, which suffered multiple breaches in the storm surge of December 5, closing the path and contaminating Blakeney Freshes - freshwater grazing marshes - with sea water.
The agency is inviting anyone with an interest in the area to discuss flood defences in Blakeney Scout Hut, Langham Road, Blakeney, between 2.30pm-7pm.
Mr Faulkner said the path was used by thousands of people every year and its closure was a major worry for local businesses.
“Our economy relies on tourism and the path is therefore enormously important to our hotels, shops, pubs, and holiday houses,” he added.
If the agency decided not to repair the breaches, Mr Faulkner said the parish council would want to see the path re-routed further inland as soon as possible, before the holiday season began.
Mark Johnson, EA coastal manager, said he understood the importance of Blakeney Freshes to the local economy.
He added: “All of the possibilities we are looking at have constraints but it’s vital that we taken account of tourism, recreation and the environment, in addition to flood risk, when considering them.
“This may take a little longer than is ideal but we have to avoid implementing a solution that might not work or last.”
Representatives from Natural England, Norfolk County Council and the National Trust - which owns land in the area - will also be present to answer questions.
Bird experts have warned that the loss of the freshwater marshes could have a dramatic impact on wildlife in the area. Helen Dangerfield, head of conservation with the National Trust, said they were keen to see a sustainable solution coming from the appraisal process while short-term measures, such as improving drainage sluices, continued.