Anger at flood defence plans

Angry property-owners around the Blyth estuary voiced their concerns over controversial plans to abandon the river's flood defences at two special drop-in sessions this weekend.

Angry property-owners around the Blyth estuary voiced their concerns over controversial plans to abandon the river's flood defences at two special drop-in sessions this weekend.

The Environment Agency (EA) announced on Friday that they only had enough money to maintain the current flood defences against rising sea levels for another 20 years, leaving 40 homes and thousands of acres of land at major risk of flooding.

About 350 people attended the meetings in Walberswick and Reydon to quiz EA's flood strategists about the impact on their property and the loss of freshwater habitats.

At Friday's drop-in at Walberswick Village Hall, farmer Andrew Hall, owner of Reydon Marshes, said: “It is a disgraceful plan to allow people's homes and land to be flooded.

“I understand there are more important things than agricultural land, people's homes for a start, but I have 250 cows grazing on Reydon Marshes and if it floods we don't have other land to support a herd of that size - we could cope for maybe a year or two but after that I don't know.”

At Reydon Village Hall on Saturday, London doctor Caroline Hyde, 55, said she bought a home on Halesworth Road earlier this year which now stands on the edge of the predicted spring-tide flood levels after five years.

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“It is not clear how this will change but the biggest tragedy is that this is an area of enormous environmental and conservation value,” she said.

“I own the property and it has massive implications but at the moment I am much more concerned about the impact on the reed bed. If water comes in through my door there has got to be ways of stopping it, but there are so few reed beds left.”

Birding enthusiast Jon Grant, from Leiston, said: “I am very angry about this. I have been visiting Tinker's Marshes for almost 40 years and it used to be a paradise for breeding waders.

“Nothing has been said about what they will do to recreate this habitat.”

EA officials said although they recognised the difficulties faced by land-owners, written feedback from the drop-ins suggested that visitors felt better informed about the reasons behind the scheme.

Area flood risk manager Mark Johnson said: “General feedback is that these sessions have been helpful but many people are still very concerned.

“We are keen to work with property owners who are affected by the draft plans and will be looking to work with them to explore what potential solutions could be funded.”

Area manager Charles Beardall said the EA was obliged by the EU Birds Directive to recreate the freshwater habitats, but that the impact on Southwold harbour was no yet known.

He said: “There are changes here that are unstoppable and we have to adapt to them.”

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