Coastal flood plan moves step closer

Plans to abandon non-priority flood defences along East Anglia's coastline moved a step closer today after the regional flood defence committee approved a policy of withdrawal of maintenance.

Plans to abandon non-priority flood defences along East Anglia's coastline moved a step closer today after the regional flood defence committee approved a policy of withdrawal of maintenance.

The policy will apply to coastal and estuary defences deemed to be uneconomic, although critics suspect the full impact on the local economy will not be taken into account.

Members of the Environment Agency's regional flood defence committee backed the policy - put forward on a national basis - but expressed concerns about the assessment process and the prior notice of maintenance withdrawal which would be given to property owners.

This could be as little as six months, although agency officials said the normal time span would be two to five years.

Committee members also questioned the wisdom of specific proposals for the phased abandonment of defences along the Blyth estuary, in north Suffolk, where farmland and 40 homes will be at increased risk of flooding.

However, the cost of rebuilding disintegrating earth walls is estimated by the agency to be £35m - six times the annual budget for the whole of East Anglia.

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Dr Charles Beardall, the agency's area manager, said there were “finite” funds for flood defence maintenance.

Graham Henderson, chairman of Suffolk Coast Against Retreat, said after the meeting: “The Blyth estuary is going to become a big focal point. We've got to move and talk at a level which brings in more people to put pressure on politicians and government, because I don't think they've thought it through very well.”

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