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Brunt of cost to protect Norfolk from floods and coastal erosion should not fall on locals, says council

PUBLISHED: 14:18 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:18 10 June 2019

Coastal erosion led to the collapse of clifftop homes on the Hemsby coastline 
Picture: Denise Bradley

Coastal erosion led to the collapse of clifftop homes on the Hemsby coastline Picture: Denise Bradley

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The burden of combating flooding and coastal erosion should not fall on people and businesses at risk in Norfolk - or on the county council, say County Hall leaders.

Norfolk county councillor Bill Borrett. Photo: Bill BorrettNorfolk county councillor Bill Borrett. Photo: Bill Borrett

And they say they are not prepared to sanction a 'managed retreat' across Norfolk, where the shoreline would be allowed to move inland, rather than defending the line through engineering projects.

The council has pledged to deliver "a robust response" to the Environment Agency's consultation over how to manage the national risk of flooding and coastal erosion.

The agency's strategy is due to be published next year and is a key part of the government's 25 year environment plan.

But county councillors have raised a string of concerns about the strategy - and specifically, who will pay for the management.

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The Environment Agency says the long-term investment estimates a national average of £1bn a year spending each year up to 2065, but does not set out who should pay.

However, they say: "It is expected that contributions will come from central and local government, businesses and those benefiting from any work."

But the council is set to make clear County Hall and people living in Norfolk should not be expected to bear the brunt. They will say that national funding has traditionally gone to high population areas rather than places like Norfolk.

Members of the county council's cabinet said it would be unrealistic to expect County Hall, as lead flood agency, to be responsible for finding the money for action in Norfolk.

Bill Borrett, the Conservative cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention, said he feared the document was a way for the agency to "weasel" out of its responsibilities.

He said: "I am absolutely aghast that the Environment Agency is trying to pass responsibility and costs on to other agencies that are not the Environment Agency."
He added: "Managed retreat is not something we, as an authority, has agreed and it has certainly not got the support of the people of Norfolk."

The cabinet agreed to delegated the submission of the final response to the government to Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

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