Sandscaping could help to protect vulnerable villages from flooding

Flood warnings at Walcott. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Flood warnings at Walcott. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are calling on the government to seize a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity to secure sea defences on the Norfolk coast.

The Bacton Gas site from the air. Picture: MIKE PAGE

The Bacton Gas site from the air. Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) is poised to pledge £500,000 for a plan to pile huge amounts of sand on the shoreline to protect villages from flooding for the next 20 years.

The approach, known as sandscaping, has already been successfully used by the Dutch.

However, an extra £1.9m-£3m of government investment would be needed to overcome the current funding shortfall.

The scheme is designed to help bolster sea defences at Bacton and Walcott that were hit by the 2013 tidal surge.

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Both villages and the Bacton Gas Terminal, which processes up to a third of the UK gas supply, are at risk from coastal erosion due to receding beaches and rising sea levels.

Shell UK is seeking to construct temporary defences to protect the terminal until a major scheme is finalised.

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Coastal Concern Action Group chairman Malcolm Kerby appealed to the government to provide the extra funds.

Mr Kerby, who has waged a long-running campaign to protect Happisburgh from coastal erosion, said: 'The Crown Estate makes at least £1m a week from dredging sand off the east coast, so the government should easily be able to afford this crucial investment.

'I am delighted sandscaping is being discussed, it can prove to be very effective. High beach build up is one of the best sea defences and creates dunes that provide a strong flood barrier.'

NNDC leaders are being recommended to approve the £500,000 investment at a meeting next week.

Cabinet member for coastal management Angie Fitch-Tillett said: 'This is an innovative scheme and a once in a lifetime opportunity to help the communities of Bacton and Walcott.

'It is a vital project and I sincerely hope that funding can be found and it is possible to gain the necessary consents for the full scheme to go ahead.'

A report to the Cabinet proposes working with the Bacton Gas Terminal operators to develop a sustainable scheme to ensure the local community benefits provided the funding gap can be addressed.

The authority would take part in the exploration and negotiations for a new sand extraction site to reduce the costs.

Walcott Parish Council chairman Pauline Porter said: 'We need the government to come up with some more money.

'There has not been a proper depth of sand on the beach for 10 years.

'It is so important for Walcott where if the coast road gets flooded we are completely cut off. One surge could take it out and where are we then?'

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