WORK to tackle the problem of tidal flooding on a stretch of the A12 could begin next summer if given the go-ahead.

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Plans for a major flood relief scheme at Blythburgh, near Southwold, will be unveiled to the public in the new year.

They include installing a sluice to prevent water flooding the road during a tidal surge - as encountered in 2007 when the route from Ipswich to Lowestoft was closed, causing major disruption to traffic, residents and businesses.

The proposal, backed by the Blyth Estuary Group and local community, and being developed by Suffolk County Council with advice from Natural England and the Environment Agency, will offer an alternative to raising the road level.

It would act as a barrier, stopping tidal water from flowing upstream beyond the bridge but allowing fresh water to pass downstream, and allowing wildlife free passage.

Guy McGregor, in charge of roads, transport and planning at the council, wants to protect the estuary flood defences and the recently completed work on Southwold Harbour. He added: “I am pleased that we are at last making progress in pursuing the sluice option to alleviate the disruption caused by flooding on this major route. This should also protect the vital flood defences to the estuary and Southwold Harbour.

“The support and advice we are receiving from the local community and key agencies is vital to the success of this scheme. However, before anything is finalised, we must satisfy ourselves that this will not have an adverse effect elsewhere.

“This decision promises to have a hugely beneficial impact for future generations, so it is crucial that we get it right.”

Residents will soon have the opportunity to see and comment on proposed designs for the sluice option at a series of open events before consultation begins.

Further impact assessments will also be carried out on the effects to natural habitats and flood risk for neighbouring properties.

If permission is granted, and plans are approved, construction work could begin at the end of the summer.

The council said that any construction work would take place between September to December to minimise disruption to over-wintering birds and summer traffic using the A12.

Sue Allen, who chairs the Blyth Estuary Group, said: “We are delighted that the sluice option is still on the table, and that Natural England and the Environment Agency are working with us. It is what we have asked for, and represents the views of our group on behalf of the community.

“We will continue to support the scheme through its next stages and very much hope that work can begin next summer.”

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