It would cost almost £1m to repair breaches which are allowing a fragile north Norfolk freshwater habitat to be contaminated with sea water, according to an Environment Agency (EA) chief.

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Steve Hayman told a Coastal Forum meeting in Cromer that work to fix about 37 breaches in the earth bank along the Blakeney Freshes would be extensive and “well beyond our local maintenance budget.”

The breaches were caused by the storm surge of December 5 and 6 last year and wildlife experts fear that birds such as lapwing, red shank, marsh harrier, avocet and bittern which use the freshwater grazing marsh, would no longer breed there if it became a saltwater habitat.

Mr Hayman, area coastal adviser for Norfolk, told the forum that the EA was looking to find money from whatever sources were available but he warned that other stricken parts of the country, including the flooded Somerset Levels, were also bidding for cash help from a limited national pot.

And he urged all interested parties to join together to help prepare the best possible bid to help the whole affected north Norfolk area.

The regular forum, hosted by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), included representatives from the district and county councils, National Trust, Broads Authority, parish councils along the flooded coastline, coastguard, King’s Lynn consortium of internal drainage boards, and Norfolk Coast Partnership.

It was the first time the forum had been held since the surge and chairman, district councillor Angie Fitch-Tillett, said it had been a wake-up call to many.

“Until that particular day people up and down this coast thought ‘It will never happen to me,’” she said.

“I think ‘awareness’ is the word I would like everyone to take home to their communities. It’s quite obvious that there is something different about the weather and we don’t know whether this will happen again.”

Simon Hooton, who leads the Broads Authority’s Broads Community project, looking at ways of adapting to a changing environment, said climate change was happening and events thought of as extreme were likely to occur more commonly.

“The earlier we plan, the better we will cope. We have to start thinking big,” said Mr Hooton.

Malcolm Kerby, who has been at the forefront of Happisburgh’s long-running campaign for help in coping with coastal erosion, said he could hear the first hints that people affected by flooding were now beginning to think about adapting to changing conditions.

“I think that’s going to play a major role moving forward,” he said. “We need some kind of funding to assist people to adapt in areas which are going to be overtaken.”

The EA has carried out repairs to breaches in the clay bank affecting the 17-18 properties east of Cley which were flooded by the surge.

But the agency was monitoring, rather than repairing, the shingle ridge which it expected would repair naturally.

Forum members heard a technical debate between engineers in the room about the drawbacks of using bulldozers to create ridges.

They agreed that artificially-made ridges did not contain the “fines” - fine sand and small granular material – which created an impermeable cement in the naturally-created ridges which, although lower, were more effective.

Brian Farrow, principal coast protection engineer with NNDC, listed repair work being undertaken along the stretch of coast for which the council has responsibility.

It included reinstating the car park at Weybourne and removing ineffective old steel sea defences exposed by the surge. Mr Farrow said their sale had almost paid for the cost of the work.

■ Have you been affected by flooding? Contact: newsdesk@archant.co.uk

5 comments

  • i wouldn't hold you breath regarding funding for the rebuild as birds don't vote. We all know in reality where the funding will be going, as long there only minimal risk to people and property they wont be rebuilding anytime soon they will concentrate where there is a risk and a potential loss of voters.

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    MrB

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • It is a long way from the Blakeney Harbour car park along the bank and back to Cley Mill. With the Environment Agency short of cash and facing larger cuts than other areas, I doubt these breaches will be repaired. There are other priorities. Some work was done on the Cley and Salthouse banks after the 1996 and other more recent surges. The shingle bank was NOT restored to the height before 1996. The movement of materials along the coast under long-shore drift, maintains Blakeney Point and has naturally started to block some of the breaches off Cley and Salthouse Properties along the coast road are under threat of flooding. The marshes are protected at international level. There are two north south banks at Cley in better condition than that around Blakeney Freshes. A modest investment in blocking up the Cley and Salthouse beach breaches may be approved. We shall see.

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    Capri

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • dont worry i am sure david cameron and nick clegg will turn up soon to construct a top of the range flood barrier made of thousands of sandbags which i am sure will do the job

    Report this comment

    milecross

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • i wouldn't hold you breath regarding funding for the rebuild as birds don't vote. We all know in reality where the funding will be going, as long there only minimal risk to people and property they wont be rebuilding anytime soon they will concentrate where there is a risk and a potential loss of voters.

    Report this comment

    MrB

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • Let's hope some of the extra government funding announced today comes to North Norfolk. Time to stand up our part of the coast. www.protectourcoast.co.uk

    Report this comment

    Stephen Burke

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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

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