Flood defence work in Great Yarmouth - ‘These works mean families can sleep sound in their beds without having to worry about the North Sea coming in under their front doors’
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014
An ambitious 50 year project to repair and reinforce flood defences on the Norfolk coast has been described as a 'milestone'.
The Environment Agency has already started work to improve the 40-year-old sea wall defences in Great Yarmouth but today saw the official launch of the long-term project.
The first phase of work is a £28.6m scheme to repair 128 metres of existing sea wall between Richard's Dry Dock and Ferry Lane, off Southtown Road. Contractors will spend several months on site, replacing 40-year-old underwater piles that have begun to rot away and installing a new concrete wall on top.
Declaring the work officially underway, EA area manager Dr Charles Beardall said: 'This is an important milestone in the history of Great Yarmouth. This is a 50-year program of repairs and I am very relived that we have, through grit and determination, been able to secure the money to start work.
'From the Humber to the Thames, there have been two towns that really stuck out in terms of need and they are Grimsby and Great Yarmouth. The recent surge tides have brought the need for good defences into sharp focus.'
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The surge tide of December 5 was 4cm higher than the flood of 1953 which claimed the lives of eight people and damaged 1,000 homes in Yarmouth. While the town's defences held up that night - only 12 properties were flooded, the EA said they are in urgent need of repair.
'We talk about one in 200 year floods, similar to the one we saw on December 5,' explained Mr Beardall.
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'If the sea levels rise and we do not improve our defences, we'd expect those kind of events to happen every other year. It is absolutely vital this work is carried out now.'
The EA has funding to continue work in Yarmouth for the next five years. Improvements for the five to 20 years after that would cost 'another £40m', with about £10m coming from outside the EA.
'There is a huge challenge ahead,' added Mr Beardall.
Speaking at today's ground-breaking ceremony, Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: 'We've only got to look at what's happening in the South West to see what can happen.'
Trevor Wainwright, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, added: 'The defences at Cobholm and Southtown have not failed, but they have deteriorated and the outcome, next time, could be tragic if we do nothing.
'Demand continues to soar when everybody's budgets are tight which is why I'm especially delighted to see that work supported by the borough council is underway.
'These works mean families can sleep sound in their beds and go about their daily lives without having to worry about the North Sea coming in under their front doors.'
An estimated 10,000 residential and commercial properties are build in Yarmouth's flood plains.
The EA will eventually repair a total of 660 metres of flood wall over the next 20 years, directly protecting more than 2,500 properties.