Communities will be engaged with over future sea defences plans in north Norfolk - Environment Agency

Blakeney after being breached by floodwater in December. Blakeney after being breached by floodwater in December.

Friday, January 24, 2014
9:08 AM

Communities will be consulted about the future of flood defences on the north Norfolk coast, the Environment Agency has said after its boss questioned whether freshwater habitats should be sacrificed to the encroaching sea.

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Environment Agency sessions for your diary

The Environment Agency is holding drop-in events throughout January and February.

31 Jan - Great Yarmouth 2.30pm-7pm (town hall)

13 Feb - Blakeney (village hall)

18 Feb - Waldring Field

19 Feb - Orford

20 Feb - Snape

21 Feb - Woodbridge

24 Feb - Hollesley

Times and locations will be confirmed closer to the February dates.

In the seaside villages across Norfolk people were divided about whether or not the barriers should be repaired, after storm surges broke through in early December.

• Is part of Norfolk’s coastline about to be abandoned to the sea?

Norfolk MPs Norman Lamb and Henry Bellingham both called for breaches to be fixed, and said they would be seeking meetings with the Environment Agency about the future of the coastline.

Their comments come after the government-funded agency’s boss Paul Leinster told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that there were questions to be asked about whether some breached sea defences in Norfolk and Suffolk should be reinstated.

About 20km out of 840km of tidal defences in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex were damaged or breached in the surges at the beginning of December.

Consultants Halcrow are pulling together a report on the future of flood defences for the Environment Agency, which said: “We are looking at a range of options for the sites in question, and discussing implications for habitats and species with Natural England and the land managing conservation bodies at Brancaster, Blakeney and Cley-Salthouse.

“Since the tidal surge we have been in discussion with partners such as Natural England, the National Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and with the local community.

“Senior coastal officers in Norfolk and Suffolk assumed responsibility for engaging with communities and will continue this engagement alongside partners such as Natural England as we jointly move towards a decision.”

A series of drop-in events have been organised throughout January and February.

Conservationists have raised concerns about the impact a failure to repair defences could have on key habitats.

Natural England, which will also be involved in decisions about whether or not to repair defences, said that if any of the locations became “more open to more tidal exchange” there would be a gradual transition from freshwater grazing marsh, reedbed and pools to more saltwater habitats, such as salt marsh, saline lagoons and, in places, tidal reedbed.

“Parts of Cley-Salthouse Marshes already support a range of saline lagoons and brackish marsh alongside freshwater habitats and, of course, there is the shingle ridge, itself an important natural feature and habitat.

“A more saltwater system would in turn alter the range and types of wintering and breeding birds that use the habitats, although this would vary between different species, depending on the extent to which they can interchange between both fresh and saltwater habitats, while others are more freshwater dependent and therefore vulnerable to change.”

North West Norfolk MP Mr Bellingham said he was concerned that the wall parallel to Beach Road in Brancaster, which does not protect any sanctuary, would just be considered from the point of view of the Royal West Norfolk golf club, but said it also linked to houses.

“When the tide quite often comes over Beach Road, not just when we have a surge, there is no way back from the club, but the bank gave us the opportunity to walk back,” he added.

He also highlighted the impact on pubs in the village which benefited from customers leaving their cars in the beach car park and walking back when the tide is up.

“From a number of points of view, including those of tourists, it is important that bank is repaired,” he said.

Mr Lamb said he would be urging the Environment Agency to repair a breach to the flood defences at Salthouse after a visit to the beach on Friday, where he met flood wardens who had concerns.

Tim Venes, manager of the Norfolk Coast Partnership, which represents the organisations which look after the 450sq km area of Norfolk coast, said: “We appreciate that there are difficult decisions to make in the aftermath of the storm surge, but we feel it is very important that local people are involved in discussions and these decisions. We will be working with the Environment Agency to try to achieve this.”

What do you think about the future of flood defences? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk giving your full name and address.

11 comments

  • The problem with 'Norm' is, he says one thing but then votes the other way. If people vote for somebody who's only here because it's a safe seat then they deserve their homes to be 'given to the sea'.

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    jeffbridges769

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • A well balanced argument from Bad Form. The sort of problem being faced here is replicated in Suffolk as well as Norfolk with places such as Southwold also under threat from neglect of sea defences. Whilst resources are limited, it is question of priorities and allocation of those funds. I think we should defend our coast line and it need not cost that much. Not sure what Ingo is on about but suffice to say the Crown Estates are under the control of the government (who receive the income from the estates) and not the Crown. Is he aware of the efforts made in Blakeney to provide affordable housing to local people or is that what he means?

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    andy

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • ingo wagenknecht - regarding the Xmas debate, is that the one where Norman Lamb was too busy to participate?

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    jeffbridges769

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • I should hope that local communities will be consulted, after all, it's peoples' homes and livelihoods that are at stake here. Decisions such as this should not be made by faceless bureaucrats but by the people most affected. Localism, localism, localism!!

    Report this comment

    la barbe

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • la barbe - I appreciate your comments and viewpoint but can't go along with it completely as who pays for expensive repairs to sea defences simply on decisions made by a small number of locals? Indeed, this government is especially unlikely to be moved by the plight of a few hundred locals,no matter which way they vote. However, magnify the number of people affected by failing to repair the sea defences and show the damage to the local economy affecting many thousands of people and you may have a different response. In North Norfolk for example, the area from Blakeney to Weybourne is a Mecca for tourists and birdwatchers and has numerous small businesses which depend on both of the above for their survival. In addition allowing the A149 to closed either on a regular or permanent basis due to flood water would have a hugely damaging impact on North Norfolk's economy and affect both locals and visitors alike. Without sounding alarmist North Norfolk's economy depends to large extent on attracting tourists and birdwatchers to the area. If the coastal strip is no longer easily accessible and the roads don't take visitors through the coastal villages because they are closed or lost to the sea then the costs are in lost revenue could be huge!

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • well said bad form, some in North Norfolk do still work and can't wait for fat annuity checks or Government pensions to arrive. This debate would be received with horror in the country we are selling our land to, well after its been washed by the North sea and dredged up by the Crown estate's non stop dredging for the last 30 odd years.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • norman lamb wants to have his cake and eat it. cut the environment agency budget and tell them to work harder! someone should try that with his pay!

    Report this comment

    Double Bill

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • The problem with 'Norm' is, he says one thing but then votes the other way. If people vote for somebody who's only here because it's a safe seat then they deserve their homes to be 'given to the sea'.

    Report this comment

    jeffbridges769

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • No Andy, not housing but dredging an already scoured coastline and exacerbating the problems we face. I agree that we should make effort to defend the coastline, its something done all over the world. But there is not much support for it, the pre christmas debate in the House was attended by less than ten MP's, it showed that despite this issue re occuring on a yearly basis, lobbygroups had more party pulling power than 13.000 affected by the bstorm.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Norman Lamb, presides in a government which is CUTTING flood defence spending, cutting environment agency staff, and then wants us to fix all the banks which protect.....marsh! Nature will always adapt and make amazing results from whatever it is given. Yes it's good now, but its not sustainable! We need to change and let nature change with us. Spend the money where adaption is not possible, ie where there is a house, town or city behind the defence. Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Aldeburgh, all have defences that are also poor and under invested in.

    Report this comment

    JK

    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Decision made many moons ago. Daubney heard 'grey pages' and agreed in 2008 to allow water in......................Houses in area were considered not high enough in value...........to save.

    Report this comment

    Wun Hunglo

    Friday, January 24, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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