Flood defence work starts after tidal surge damage near Kessingland and Benacre

Benacre sluice from the air. Picture: MIKE PAGE

Benacre sluice from the air. Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Archant

Flood defence work has started at Benacre this week following significant coastal erosion during last December's tidal surge.

The Environment Agency is importing 370 tonnes of rock as part of a £64,000 project to protect the area around Benacre pumping station outfall, which discharges freshwater from the Hundred River into the North Sea.

It comes after a four metre stretch of coastline was lost during the high tide on December 5, putting Benacre Ness, the pumping station and sewage works, and about 33 properties on the Kessingland levels at risk of flooding during another extreme surge event.

The work, which started yesterday, is expected to take two weeks.

The imported rock will be used to extend the southern section of the existing defence to bolster the defences and slow the rate of erosion.

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A representative from the Benacre estate, Kessingland Parish Council, Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Waveney District councillor Bruce Provan and Suffolk County councillor Michael Ladd have attended a number of meetings with the Environment Agency over the project.

Mr Aldous said: 'If you look at what has happened over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a significant amount of erosion and the sluice and the sewage works and part of Kessingland are at risk. The risk of the sewage works being taken out is a major concern.

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'This was a risk that was probably seen as being seen as being 10 to 15 years in the future until December 5 last year when there was so much damage that the time for doing this has been brought quite dramatically forward.

'Because of this, I have been working with Kessingland Parish Council and liaising with the Environment Agency and Waveney District Council to say, look this all of a sudden is a serious problem. We need to be planning for it now rather than doing panic measures in three or four years time.'

He added: 'On the Benacre side, Benacre Ness is a very sensitive environmental area that will be transformed completely from a freshwater habitat to a saltwater habitat. It will be a major transformation that will have environmental implications and implications for wildlife as well.

Mr Aldous said the Environment Agency had engaged a consultancy firm to carry out a study of the area to come up with a long term solution to the problem.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey welcomed the news that the flood defence work had started, saying a number of her constituents had been concerned about the erosion and resulting flood risk.

She added: 'It is good to hear that the Environment Agency has started erosion repair work on the Benacre sluice.

'The area suffered significant erosion as a result of the tidal surge last December and it has been worrying residents.'

Heidi Crick, who lives at Beach Farm, Benacre with her husband Tim, also welcomed the work.

She said: 'The tidal surge definitely made a huge impact on the beach down here.

'If they can alleviate it and protect the pumping station and keep it in working order to pump out water when there is a lot of flooding then it is a good thing.

'The Environment Agency have been very helpful in letting us know what is going on with their work and it hasn't affected the farming at all.'

Kessingland Parish Council chairman Liam Martin said talks were ongoing about protecting the area in the long term.

He added: 'We are concerned about that area of Kessingland.

'It is the Achilles heel of the village.

'If there is going to be a problem there it will affect the properties in the southern part of the village.'

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