July 31 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Fresh efforts are being made to protect Wells homes and business from flooding as the town continues to recover from the biggest tidal surge in its history.
Proposals were put forward for additional flood defence measures in the town at a meeting between Wells Harbour Commissioners, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and representatives from the Environment Agency and North Norfolk District Council (NNDC).
These are now being considered and a further meeting is to take place in the next few weeks.
Wells harbour master Robert Smith said: “Since the flooding of December 5 we have had lots of people coming to us wanting to know what will happen to protect them in the future.
“We set this meeting up to see what can be done and we put forward proposals which were first suggested in 2009.”
The proposal is for a realigning or lowering of the existing North Point Bank on the eastern side of Wells, or the incorporation of a sluice gate to allow the tide to move up the valley to the east, as it did prior to the banks being built and the land being reclaimed by the Holkham estate in the 1700s and 1800s.
An alternative suggestion was to lower the existing east bank to allow the tide to overtop when the water reached a certain point across the Quayside.
The proposal says it would be essential to build a new shorter flood defence along the east side of Wells running north to south to protect the town.
Mr Smith said the current flood barrier worked well to prevent water entering Freeman Street on December 5, but it meant this raised the water level east of the barrier.
The discussions are taking place at a time when several business on Wells Quayside remain closed due to flood damage and the redevelopment of the former burned out Gray’s Arcade building into three shops and nine apartments is starting to take shape.
Mr Smith said: “The Environment Agency has said these plans would cost up to £3m and we would have to find the money from somewhere to make it happen, which is obviously very difficult.
“But hundreds of thousands of pounds has been invested in Wells Quayside in recent months and, with a growing concern that this sort of extreme flooding could become more common due to global warming, people want to know what is being done to protect them in the future.
“If we can’t make this work we need to see what else we can do because we can’t just sit back and do nothing.”
Meanwhile, NNDC looks set to recoup some of the £3m bill after the district’s sea defences were ravaged by the December storm surge
The council will receive £765,000 from the Environment Agency after applying for £1,041,000, and leader Tom FitzPatrick said he hoped the authority would receive a further £276,000 from the EA next year.
But despite the windfall and opportunity of receiving half the £3m bill through insurance and government schemes, the council could have a shortfall of more than £500,000 to come out of its general reserves.
Mr FitzPatrick said: “We are very pleased about the £765,000. Even with this EA grant it is likely the council will still be out of pocket to the tune of over £500,000 as a result of December’s events. We are continuing to have a dialogue with central government regarding further financial support and about how such a situation could be avoided in the future, to take the pressure off hard-pressed local government funds.”