Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership celebrate major milestone in ground-breaking flood defence project

Sir Edward Greenwell addresses the Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership's annual general meeting in May,

Sir Edward Greenwell addresses the Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership's annual general meeting in May, at which its Estuary Plan was fine tuned. - Credit: Archant

A major milestone has been reached as part of ground-breaking proposals to protect 1,500 homes and some of Suffolk’s most stunning scenery from flooding.

The Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership (AOEP) has submitted plans to protect 42km of riverbank, stretching from Snape to Shingle Street, and hopes to receive approval from Suffolk County Council early next year.

The £7m-£10m scheme will be part-financed through an innovative funding initiative called Enabling Development under which planning restrictions preventing development on agricultural land in the estuary can be lifted to levy the required capital.

Around 40 sites have so far been offered by landowners. Suffolk Coastal District Council is expected to make a decision on which are suitable by March 2015. Once planning permission is granted, the sites will be sold off through the Estuary Trust and the profits used to fund flood defence projects, which have been determined in consultation with representatives from the different estuary communities.

Enabling Development has previously been used to carry out the East Lane coastal defences at Bawdsey, where more than £2million was raised by consenting a 26-dwelling housing development.

The project was heralded as a ground-breaking case study in how flood-prone communities could secure funding for defence projects, which would otherwise be ineligible for the level of government funding required.

Alison Andrews, who is chairman of the Alde and Ore Estuary Association, said the AOEP’s plans, which she helped to write, were on a far grander scale than the Bawdsey project, in terms of finance and the protection offered.

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Although she has stressed there is still much work to be done, Mrs Andrews said “some substantial building blocks are now moving into place”.

“It will be incredibly exciting once we’ve got some of the money and can start to move forward,” she said.

“At the moment it’s a bit like building a house in that we’ve got to spend a lot of time putting in the foundations but once all that’s in place we should be able to start moving.”

As well as protecting the 1,500 homes threatened by overtopping –many of which were affected during last December’s storm surge – the AOEP is also acting on behalf of the region’s tourism industry, estimated to be worth £76 million.

David McGinity, who is an AOEP committee member and chairman of Butley Parish Council, said the project could be “great for the local community and great for businesses”.

“We could start to build a really positive economy,” he added.

Suffolk County Council is currently checking the plans comply with regulations, but the AOEP is optimistic they will be approved.

Amanda Bettinson, who is the AOEP’s secretary, said “It’s feeling very positive at the moment and I’m looking forward to receiving the first cheque in the post.”

“I would be disappointed if we didn’t see to see some money coming in before the end of next year.”