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£3.3m flood defence scheme to protect homes and businesses

PUBLISHED: 16:08 15 July 2020

Aerial photo showing the Kessingland levels. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management Alliance

Aerial photo showing the Kessingland levels. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management Alliance

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A community that thrives on its coastal tourist economy is to receive “long-term protection” from flooding as part of a major defence scheme.

Aerial photos taken 31 years apart highlight the rapid movement of the Benacre Ness northwards and the reduction in the length of the pumping station outfall over time. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management AllianceAerial photos taken 31 years apart highlight the rapid movement of the Benacre Ness northwards and the reduction in the length of the pumping station outfall over time. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management Alliance

The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Scheme has been awarded more than £3m from the Government for a scheme that will protect homes, safeguard businesses and infrastructure and enhance the environment in an area of flood risk.

With an investment of almost £3.3m, the flood management scheme will deliver long-term protection to homeowners and businesses while it also develops nature-based solutions.

Aerial photo showing the Lothingland Valley. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management AllianceAerial photo showing the Lothingland Valley. Picture: The Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project/Courtesy of Water Management Alliance

The Benacre and Kessingland flood management project has been developed over the past seven years.

After joining forces in 2013, a partnership of public bodies, private businesses and the local community has been working on a complex realignment project on the north Suffolk coast.

With coastal, fluvial and pluvial flood risk issues to address, alongside challenging coastal erosion issues, there is also a significant pumped drainage capacity need which is described as adding “a further technical dimension to the project.”

As more than 13 organisations and businesses have worked together in adapting to these issues, the Benacre and Kessingland Flood Management Project is described as “a catchment-scale, partnership approach to managing the flood risk in the Lothingland and Kessingland Valley.”

With the Water Management Alliance managing the project on behalf of the Waveney, Lower Yare and Lothingland Internal Drainage Board, a spokesman said:

“The area at risk includes 44 homes, local businesses and key visitor attractions including Parkdean Resorts and Africa Alive which employ hundreds of people.

“The area is important for wildlife, recreation and agriculture and the flood risk also affects the A12 south of Lowestoft – the main transport link between Lowestoft and Ipswich.

“The purpose of the project is to significantly reduce all forms of flooding through new flood defence embankments set further up the valley, which will create 247.1 acres (100ha) of new intertidal habitat.

“This in turn will generate a newly aligned and more sustainable coastal area for people, wildlife and the local economy for future generations.”

With the project looking to develop “a habitat similar to Benacre Broad or Minsmere,” work is set to start in 2021 and it is expected to take “up to five years to complete.”

Reaction

The scheme will incorporate “a more sustainable” national coastal path route inland from the eroding coast and improve the fluvial flood risk of the Lothingland Valley area as well as the A12, which is at risk of both coastal and fluvial flooding.

An aging pumping station on Benacre Ness, currently managed by the Environment Agency, will also be removed.

The project will develop nature-based solutions, utilising freshwater capture and storage for habitat enhancement and agriculture, in addition to improving fisheries, tourism and a raft of wider economic benefits for local residents.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “It is good news that the Government have provided funding of nearly £3.3 million for the Benacre and Kessingland Flood Risk Management Scheme, which will protect many homes, will safeguard businesses and vital infrastructure and will enhance the environment.

“Special thanks should go to Kessingland Parish Council and local landowners, who at an early stage recognised the rapid pace of coastal erosion and brought together a wide group of interested parties to produce a plan.

“I look forward to working with them as the project moves forward and is completed.”

Phil Camamile, chief executive of Water Management Alliance, added: “This is fantastic news.

“The Benacre and Kessingland flood management project will create not only an important new intertidal habitat and reduce the risk of flooding to a community which thrives on its coastal tourist economy but will also protect the A12 from flooding from the sea – a key route for the growing offshore energy sector that operates from the area.

“The project is an exemplar of demonstrating what can be achieved when the local community, risk management authorities, government bodies, landowners and private businesses all work together to get something done.”

What is the issue?

With erosion of the Benacre Ness frontage having “been more rapid than predicted”, it has led to the scheme being developed.

The large sand and shingle ridge – the Benacre Ness – has progressively moved northwards along the coast for several centuries providing protection to the areas it fronts, but erosion in its wake, as the coastline readjusts exposing the low lying area of the Kessingland levels to North Sea tidal surges and storms.

This erosion has increased in recent years, with a project to protect 44 homes, over 600ha of farmland, major tourism businesses and the A12 road now receiving significant investment.

In 2013 the east coast was hit by the largest tidal surge since 1953. The dunes and banks at Kessingland were overtopped, but did not breach.

Following this a multi-agency group was set up and is now well established. Kessingland Parish Council (KPC) took the lead from the outset and with local partners, set up the Kessingland Multi-Agency Group (KMAG) to consider the issues and potential solutions.


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