December 20 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Some Norfolk and Suffolk sea defences may not be reinstated following the tidal surge which hit Norfolk last month.
This is potentially a very emotive issue for a much-loved part of Norfolk.
While details are still vague as to where exactly could be affected, such a move would have a massive impact on the natural environment at these three areas.
Wildlife that relies on freshwater to thrive would have to go somewhere else, replaced by new plants, birds and animals.
Some will be scared as to the impact on an area that is not only outstandingly beautiful, but is also a big draw for tourism.
Others will see it as a simple example of evolution, the likes of which has been happening for thousands of years.
Environment Agency boss Paul Leinster told MPs this afternoon that his agency is questioning whether or not it will allow the water that has broken through to remain.
Brancaster, Blakeney and Salthouse are all areas that the agency is considering allowing the salt water to create new habitats. During a select committee session on the recent storms which have caused widespread flooding the EA chief executive was questioned on the speed of repairs to the breached barriers.
But he said: “For some of the situation, the flood defences are still under water. We physically can’t get to them to inspect them. In other places we will have discussions with Natural England and others as to whether we are going to reinstate those flood defences, or whether we will allow the water that has now broken through to remain. So you can imagine some of the places up on the North Norfolk Coast or some of the places in Suffolk where some defences have broken through. They were protecting particular types of habitat. The questions has to be do we reinstate those defences and then allow fresh water habitat to re-establish, or allow inter-tidal habitat to establish.”
But he added: “The bit I would like to assure is properly and people are being protected and we have carried out all of the emergency works we need to and put in temporary works we to need to protect people and property.”
Mark Johnson, coastal manager for the Environment Agency said: “Last month’s combination of strong winds, large waves and high tides led to a record tidal surge along many parts of the coast.
“This had a large impact on areas along the North Norfolk coast that needs thorough evaluation before any decisions are made.
“We have already employed Halcrow as consultants to review the situation in Brancaster, Blakeney and Salthouse.
“We are expecting their report next month. The report and discussions with our partners and those affected will help us to consider our options for the North Norfolk coast.”
You can watch the committee here