Coastline tidal surge warning

By Sarah ChambersA TIDAL surge could occur at any moment that could have "irreversible long-term effects" on an area of the Suffolk coast, it has been warned.

By Sarah Chambers

A TIDAL surge could occur at any moment that could have "irreversible long-term effects" on an area of the Suffolk coast, it has been warned.

David Andren, deputy chairman of the Alde and Ore Association, said many people were concerned the Environment Agency's approach to flood management was "fundamentally flawed".

His warning came after the RSPB said its internationally-important nature reserve at Minsmere could be lost to the sea unless defences were strengthened.

In a report published in the Alde and Ore Association's newsletter, he claimed the agency's preoccupation with strategies for the whole of the 21st Century meant "relative neglect" of important short-term issues.

"There seems to be no clear acknowledgement of the fact that the current failure to spend even modest sums on sea and river defences may mean that a tidal surge, which could occur at any moment (perhaps even tomorrow) could have irreversible and long-term effects," he said.

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Mr Andren added the funds allocated to flood defence were "pitiably inadequate" and there was a failure to recognise the need for defensive investment and urgent maintenance in areas subject to coastal flooding and tidal surges.

"The Environment Agency admit that nationally only £100million is spent each year on maintaining flood defences - less than 1% of their asset value - and describe this as 'inadequate'," he said.

"We think that the total amount spent on maintaining river and sea defences in the whole of the Anglian region is about £1m a year, but the only local figures we have are for the Slaughden Shingle Recharge, which costs about £30,000 each year."

The Alde and Ore Association has now urged its members to take an active interest in the Environment Agency's consultation process on local flood defences.

"Indifference to decisions about flood defences is not an option. If we want to end up with our heads and houses above water, everyone should join in doing what they can to persuade the Environment Agency that our river and the surrounding countryside is worth protecting," it said.

The Friends of the Rivers Alde and Ore, which was involved in an economic study of the area, said there was a critical need for river and coastal defences for what they described as "a North Sea gem".

The study said the local economy benefited to the tune of more than £8m from the Alde and Ore estuary area and residents overwhelmingly want it protected.

It was prompted by concerns among residents about the economic, recreational, environmental and wildlife implications of possible flooding.

The Friends said the Orfordness shingle spit was a coastal defence, protecting vulnerable land areas and providing safe sailing and fishing waters that in turn helped boatyards, pleasure cruise vessels and sailing clubs.

"Indirectly, numerous other businesses and livelihoods - indeed the whole area - benefit from this single feature. Yet it is vulnerable, especially near the Martello Tower at Aldeburgh," said the authors of the study.

"There is an overwhelming consensus of local opinion that the minimum requirement for river and coastal defences is for the current status quo to be maintained."

Environment Agency project manager, Nigel Pask, said consultation had always been "an essential part" of their strategy study and added further meetings were planned about the Alde and Ore.

"We are presently working on the possible options for flood risk management in the estuary and will present these and identify those which we will consider further. This work will be presented at the next exhibitions, which will be in October," said Mr Pask.

"The project team is putting particular effort into valuing the benefits of the flood defences to both the complex farming interests and the sailing and wider tourism interests. We will be seeking particular responses from any potential partnership opportunities in the next consultation rounds."

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