Coastal protection project a ‘talking shop’
A �1.5million project to help protect the Suffolk coast against the threat of erosion was last night branded a “talking shop” that will not provide the immediate action desperately needed.
The Waveney Pathfinder Project has been set up with government funding to help villagers in Corton, near Lowestoft, and Easton Bavents, near Southwold, look at ways to adapt to the changing shoreline.
But last night campaigners said it did not go far enough to provide the practical solutions that were needed.
However, those behind the initiative launched a vigorous defence saying they could only come up with appropriate solutions following consultation with local communities.
Over the next 10 months, people living and working in the two villages will have the chance to take part in workshops and events aimed at creating ideas and planning for the future.
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It will try to establish what options there are for managing the effects of coastal erosion and its impacts on community life and businesses.
Their suggestions - which could include relocation and re-use of land - will then be handed to the Department for food, environment and rural affairs (Defra) in April next year for consideration in the future development of coastal change policy.
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But Graham Henderson, chairman of Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR), said: “It is not offering any actual solutions.
“The people of Easton Bavents thought they were going to get some practical help, but all they are getting is an opportunity for consultation.
“That will take up money that would be better used for practical applications such as relocating properties that are close to the cliff edge.
“The knowledge of what needs to be done is already in the hands of local organisations.
“There are three properties at Easton Bavents close to the edge at the moment and they will probably go into the sea before this project is concluded.”
Retired engineer Peter Boggis has spent years creating his own costal defences from some 250,000 tonnes of compacted clay soils near his home in Easton Bavents.
Last night he said: “It is a great shame. This is purely a talking shop. It does not provide any physical help. I believe its purely a holding operation to placate the general public.”
The Pathfinder Project was launched in Lowestoft on Tuesday and is being led by Waveney District Council along with Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal Futures.
It is one of 15 Pathfinder projects across the country which was set up with money from Defra last year.
Last night Waveney District Council’s David McGinnis, project officer for the initiative, said it was a great opportunity for communities to have their say on what should be done.
“We need to find sustainable and practical solutions,” he said. “The whole idea is that we want to listen to local opinion and engage with the community to enable us to identify what they consider to be issues and concerns and work with them to form solutions.
“We need to listen to what people have to say and understand the pressures and concerns to see where we can help in the short and long term.
“For the most favourable options to be identified, it is essential that they are worked through in consultation. It is vital that the local communities have a say in their future.”
For more details about the Pathfinder project, visit www.waveney-pathfinder.com.