Hope rise for revamp of Cromer sea walls

RICHARD BATSON A £10m revamp of Cromer's aging sea walls is moving ahead again after an earlier false dawn. The resort's 100-year-old concrete sea defences between the prom and the beach are in danger of failing.

RICHARD BATSON

A £10m revamp of Cromer's aging sea walls is moving ahead again after an earlier false dawn.

The resort's 100-year-old concrete sea defences between the prom and the beach are in danger of failing after years of being hammered by the waves.

Plans to improve them have been on the agenda for 10 years, but officials initially struggled to make the figures add up to win government funding.


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And then, when a scheme was poised to progress two years ago, it was dashed when environment officials froze their funding pot, fearing it was over-committed.

But the Environment Agency has now given North Norfolk District Council the nod to start paperwork overtures for a project - though it still may be 2010 before construction work starts.

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Head of coastal strategy Peter Frew said the authority had done some “special pleading” to get approval to move ahead, and pointed out the walls were in urgent need of repair.

“If nothing is done we will see failures. Quite when I don't know. It depends on how many more bad winters we get,” he added.

There were problems near the pier - an area where they had to be especially careful with new works because it was listed for its historical value.

It was hoped to re-face about a mile of sea walls, and some work might be needed to update the groynes, said Mr Frew.

The next hurdle was to carry out a strategic study, looking at the engineering options - from doing nothing to building man-made offshore reefs, with the answer lying somewhere in the middle.

An impact assessment was also needed to look at the knock-on effects at neighbouring bits of coast, such as Overstrand cliffs, which are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as bird and marine life.

Mr Frew said it had been hoped to coincide the sea defence work with Cromer's regeneration schemes a few years ago, but funding problems meant that did not happen.

Any damage done to the seafront improvements by the shore engineering works would have to be reinstated as part of the sea wall project, he added.

The multi-million pound Cromer boost comes as other communities along the north Norfolk coast battle to get any coast protection funding at all, under a change of policy to allow “managed retreat” and abandoning long-standing defences.

But Mr Frew said the council was still buying time at those locations with emergency repairs, using its own money - with Mundesley due to get work in 2008.

There were also plans for emergency repairs at Walcott, where the seawall capping stones were damaged in the recent storm surge.

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