People have their say on future of Blakeney’s sea defences
08:58 14 February 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
More than 100 concerned villagers gathered at a drop-in event to discuss the future of Blakeney after December’s tidal surge.
The area’s freshwater marshes have been under threat after its flood defences were breached and salt water began contaminating the wildlife habitat.
And with the protective bank breached, the popular coastal walk on its surface has come under threat – leaving villagers worried about the cost to business if holidaymakers stop coming. Yesterday’s event at Blakeney Scout Hut, organised by the Environment Agency, allowed residents to raise concerns.
The key question is whether to allow the sea water to flow in, changing the environmental make-up of the marshes, or to rebuild defences to keep it out – maintaining the freshwater habitat popular with birds and other wildlife.
The Environment Agency has said it is considering the possible options and remains undecided.
Tom Green, 69, of Wilsons Way, Blakeney, said it was important to think of the legacy left for future generations. He said: “There are already plenty of saltwater habitats. It’s important to keep this area for wildlife. Austerity is a short-term problem, but our coast is long-term.”
And mindful of the village’s reliance on tourism for business, many people were concerned about the coastal walk.
Suzy Cowley, 64, who has been living in Blakeney for 30 years, said the path was a vital part of the attraction. She said: “I can see the sense in letting the water rise naturally, but at the same time I can see the impact on this village. Generations of people have been coming here for the marshes and walk, if it disappears they might go elsewhere.” On hand to answer questions at yesterday’s event was the National Trust’s Norfolk coast general manager, John Sizer, who said the trust was undecided about which approach it supported.
He said: “We are open minded about the various options – we have concerns about the whole of the Norfolk coast. But what is clear is that concrete is not the only solution.”
But Paul Hayden, (pictured), chairman of the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, offered reassurance that Norfolk would secure funds for rebuilding infrastructure.
He said: “We already have the allocation for this year. People and property have to come first.”
And among those representing the Environment Agency at yesterday’s event was Mark Johnson, coastal manager for the EA, who said: “All of the possibilities we are looking at have constraints, but it is vital that we take 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.”
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