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Opposing views about future of north Norfolk sea defences

PUBLISHED: 09:44 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:23 24 January 2014

Blakeney after the 2013 tidal flood.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Blakeney after the 2013 tidal flood. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

The debate over whether to rebuild fragile sea defences around north Norfolk marshland or let nature take its course is the talk of one coastal community.

Opposing views on the future of the earth bank around Blakeney, Cley and Morston as well as the shingle bank at Salthouse were being voiced by walkers, businesses and residents around Blakeney yesterday.

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

People will be able to let the Environment Agency (EA) know what they want to happen to the defences at a drop-in session at Blakeney Scout Hut, next to the village hall off Langham Road, on Thursday February 13 between 2.30-7pm.

Amanda Sayers, from Blakeney, who was out walking with her partner Paul Cowell, and dog Bentley, said: “They keep rebuilding the defences and they keep breaking down. It is tricky one but eventually the sea will continue claiming them back. People will always come here with their families.”

Mr Cowell, a chef, said: “The EA spend thousands of pounds on the defences and I think it is a waste of money. I think the area should stay a saltwater marsh because you cannot stop the sea.”

One area some people were concerned about, especially bird enthusiasts, was the impact of saltwater moving on to the unique freshwater marshes because of the lack of defences.

James Player, 29, director of The Blakeney Cottage Company which rents out holiday cottages, said: “The saltwater would affect the different species of birds that like the freshwater marshes. That would have a knock-on effect on the number of birdwatchers that come here.”

He said it was important areas of the coastal path around Blakeney damaged by the surge were reinstated, a view shared by Blakeney Parish Council chairman Tony Faulkner, who added: “A lot of bird folk say the EA must repair the defences because they are precious but others say they should go back to their natural state.

“In the long-term it is better not to fight nature. It makes logical sense to protect the villages close to the coast with short banks rather than protect the vast areas of marsh.”

John Marcucci, 62, a barman at the King’s Arms pub, said people needed to hear from the EA about what was going to happen and properties, including homes at Salthouse, were at risk from flooding.

“If the barriers were not rebuilt it would reduce the number of visitors. We need people to come to north Norfolk and we need to hold on to what people come for,” he added.

Mr Marcucci said the damaged defences were having an impact on the environment and marshes.

Dan Goff, owner of the Dun Cow pub, said the EA had to protect property “first and foremost”.

He had “mixed feelings” and said there was a case that migratory birds on freshwater marshes attracted birdwatchers and walkers but there was another argument that the natural environment should take its course.

“If the EA are going to do something they have do it quickly. The longer they wait, the project will become bigger and more expensive,” Mr Goff said.

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