Coastal defence funding 'inadequate'

HUNDREDS of homes near the coast in Suffolk are at risk because funding for repairs to sea defences is “woefully inadequate”, it has been claimed. Council chiefs have called for the £75million annual budget for repairing sea defences across the country to be drastically increased because the Government has run out of money even for urgent repairs this year.

HUNDREDS of homes near the coast in Suffolk are at risk because funding for repairs to sea defences is “woefully inadequate”, it has been claimed.

Council chiefs have called for the £75million annual budget for repairing sea defences across the country to be drastically increased because the Government has run out of money even for urgent repairs this year.

In Felixstowe, the council has asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to fund half of a £10million defence scheme to protect about 1,600 homes and businesses.

The situation became urgent in May when around 50 metres of sea wall collapsed, with giant boulders since installed as a short-term measure to hold the waves at bay.


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But Jeremy Schofield, of Suffolk Coastal District Council, warned: “We've tried to do temporary emergency works but they don't rebuild the beach or solve the fundamental problem. The worry is that what we've done won't be sufficient to keep the winter storms at bay.”

With similar problems blighting coastal locations throughout the country, including other places in Suffolk and north Essex, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the Government to invest extra cash.

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The LGA is also calling for a more comprehensive long-term system of funding to combat the issues of global warming and rising sea levels.

David Sparks, environment spokesman for the LGA, said: “Many of our sea walls and defences are literally crumbling because they date back to the Victorian era and are reaching the end of their life. Other stretches of coastline where defences don't exist are becoming increasingly vulnerable, placing villages and homes at risk.

“The current annual budget of around £75m is woefully inadequate with such important works needed as a matter of urgency.”

Ian Pearson, the environment minister, defended the Government's spending on coastal erosion.

“The Government is committed to effective management of flood and coastal erosion risk,” he said.

“The total of central and local government funding is at a record high and has increased from £307m in 1996-7 to an outturn of £600m in 2005-6, an increase of 40% in real terms. A significant amount of this is spent on the coast with large sums invested at many locations across England, including at Southwold in Suffolk.”

He added: “Building defences may not be feasible in all locations and we recognise we also need to try to identify ways to help communities affected by the changing coastline to adapt.”

A Defra spokesman confirmed it had received an application for the scheme in Felixstowe and will be reviewing funding allocations for 2007-8 in the autumn.

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