How new team will deal with Norfolk and Suffolk’s changing coastline

 Launch of a new group to manage the east coast from Holkham to Felixstowe at Ness Point, Lowestoft.

Launch of a new group to manage the east coast from Holkham to Felixstowe at Ness Point, Lowestoft.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

For those with homes and businesses right by the sea, the daunting prospect of coastal erosion and flooding creates an uncertain future.

And now, four district councils have joined forces to look at how best to manage the problem in the face of climate change and an ever-evolving Norfolk and Suffolk coastline.

Until now Waveney, Suffolk Coastal, Great Yarmouth and North Norfolk district councils have employed their own separate coastal management teams to deal with floods like those in December 2013, as well as long-term planning issues.

But now they have decided that 'working together is going to be a much more robust way of doing that in the future'.

Although each of 12 coastal management workers across the four authorities will continue to work in their respective officers and provide local knowledge, they will now work for Coastal Partnership East - and share their areas of expertise across 136-miles of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.

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They will also be responsible for 48km of seawalls and looking after more than 450 groynes.

Bill Parker - previously head of the coastal management team for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney, who will lead the new organisation - said: 'We have a changing coastline and that's not going to stop.

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'That's creating, in local authorities, some challenges.

'We've got some fantastic staff already but their expertise is fragmented.

'We're not as effective unless we operate as one partnership.

'If we have four or five local authorities each lobbying, that is not going to help.

'If we pull our actions together and give one clear steer about what's needed, I think that's going to be a much more effective way of working.

'This isn't a budget-saving measure.

'It is about using what we have collectively better.'

Its biggest challenges will be how to prepare the area for flooding in the future, with the 2013 tidal surge and last year's Cumbrian floods making the prospect of future floods seem ever more likely.

In Lowestoft a £25million scheme of permanent flood defences has been proposed by WDC, with other districts also working on their own flood defence projects.

Companies across the four councils have also been encouraged to take advantage of a Business Emergency Resilience Toolkit (BERT) to help them prepare for any disasters and know who to call in the event of an emergency.

However Neil Hornby - deputy director, head of flood risk and coastal erosion at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - admitted there might be some properties that cannot be saved.

'It's always been the case that where individual houses can't be saved, in those cases we need different approaches to help people,' he said.

Mr Parker said a policy deciding in what circumstances homes would be saved is still to be devised.

However solutions might range from building flood defences to helping residents relocate.

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