Firms will have to pay towards cost of sea defences between Heacham and Wolferton in West Norfolk

Firms will soon have to pay towards the cost of maintaining the sea defences. Picture: Matthew Usher

Firms will soon have to pay towards the cost of maintaining the sea defences. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

Businesses will have to start paying towards the cost of flood defences in West Norfolk, to cover a £150,000 shortfall.

The warning comes in the Environment Agency's draft Coastal Management Strategy, which has gone out for consultation.

The document recommends that the so-called soft defences, which lie between Heacham and Wolferton, will continue to be repaired each spring.

EA engineers 'recharge' the shingle bank by collecting material which has been washed away south by the winter storms using giant earthmovers.

But the document adds government funding for the work runs out next year.

Brian Long, West Norfolk council's cabinet member for the environment, said that would leave a shortfall of between £150,000 and £200,000.

Businesses - which are predominantly holiday parks in the area affected - will be asked to pay between £40 and £50 per caravan, while farmers will be asked to pay £1 per hectare for land holdings protected by the defences. Mr Long said firms had responded positively to the request at a meeting to discuss how the sea defences could be funded in the future.

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'They agreed that they couldn't let the defences go,' he said. 'To keep their businesses vibrant and viable, they can't afford to let the defences go.'

A community interest company is being set up by the borough council to administer the finances. A similar scheme is likely to be set up across The Wash, in Lincolnshire, where holiday businesses will also have to contribute towards the cost of the defences which protect them.

The EA strategy also recommends maintaining the promenade, groynes and sea wall at Hunstanton, because they are essential for the resort's economic future.

It says the existing structures are expected to last until at least 2029 and their importance to tourism means there could be national funding made available when the time comes to replace them.