£18m barrier to hold back the sea – what do you think of new scheme to protect Lowestoft?
- Credit: Mike Page
A new flood barrier is being planned as part of an £18m scheme to protect Lowestoft from the potentially devastating effects of tidal flooding, it was revealed this week.
Plans for the new barrier – which would see a wall up to 2m high built from Hamilton Dock to South Pier and a lifting lock gate installed by the Bascule bridge – have been drawn up after a study predicted that central Lowestoft could be hit by major floods every 20 years.
It estimates that a major flood could swamp more than 650 homes, dramatically affect businesses and cause major disruption and damage to the town's transport system and infrastructure.
In an effort to protect the town, the £18m barrier scheme has been created as part of the Lowestoft Transport and Infrastructure Prospectus, which involves Waveney District Council, Suffolk County Council, the Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce and the Environment Agency.
Announcing the plans this week, Colin Law, leader of Waveney, said: 'The findings are stark. However by working together with partners we have an opportunity to deliver a landmark scheme which will safeguard current homes and businesses, while further encouraging future investment in the town.
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'One of our key pledges as part of the Lowestoft Transport and Infrastructure Prospectus was to commission the most detailed and reliable flood risk assessment the town has ever seen.'
The flood study says the only suitable location for a tidal barrier is one that prevents water breaching vulnerable low-lying locations at, or to the east, of Kirkley Ham.
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It suggests the land most vulnerable to flooding lies within the area around the town's railway station at the corner of Station Road and Waveney Road.
Under the £18m barrier scheme, a wall would be built from Hamilton Road along the A12 and down and across Lake Lothing to South Pier. It would be up to 2m high in places and, to make sure it is not obtrusive, it would include glass or removable planks.
The most expensive part of the project would be a lifting tidal lock gate across Lake Lothing – based on a barrier in Ipswich – which is estimated to cost £13m. It would also have the potential to lower water levels in the inner harbour in the event of flooding caused by heavy rain or snow.
The council says the flood survey, carried out by Halcrow and Bam Nuttall, shows that a repeat of the 1953 east coast flood disaster could become 'a one in every 20-year event' within a century, as a result of sea levels rising due to climate change.
Previously, the forecast for devastating floods of this maginitude was once in 1,000 years.
Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: 'Ensuring Lowestoft has the infrastructure in place to encourage economic growth and attract jobs is a priority for the county council.
'This study helps us to understand how to reduce the risk of tidal flooding to many homes and businesses in the town. We are continuing to develop these proposals with Waveney and other organisations in Suffolk's Flood Risk Management Partnership to ensure residents and businesses of Lowestoft will get maximum benefit from future investment to minimise all flooding.'
The next stage of the flood barrier plans will see a detailed economic impact assessment carried out, a public exhibition held and work beginning to identify funding streams for the £18m scheme.
As part of the flood study, an initial contingency sum of £14m for design work has also been added.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who chairs the prospectus group, said: 'High quality and improved flood defences are vitally important. I welcome this study, which will be put out to public consultation, further scrutinised and then finalised.
'I shall be working with the councils to ensure that the necessary funding is secured from government.'
The study has also involved Associated British Ports, which has stressed the importance of keeping the harbour open while any work is carried out.
Roger Arundale, deputy port manager, said: 'Lowestoft has significant issues related to flooding both from high tides and land drainage.
'It is hoped that by working together, the partner organisations can help identify and progress solutions that will both safeguard existing homes, businesses and infrastructure and help enable future developments which should improve growth potential for businesses and homes.'
As previously reported in The Journal, businessman Peter Colby has drawn up his own plans for a £30m third crossing over Lake Lothing which, he says, would involve a tidal barrage to help tackle flooding problems.
Although the £18m scheme announced this week is focused on flood protection, the organisations behind the transport and infrastructure prospectus say that one of its key aims is to improve the town's road network by 2025 to attract more businesses and that it also includes plans for a possible third crossing.