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Communities face battle to keep rising seas at bay if budgets slashed

PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 May 2010

COAST protection work along Suffolk’s shores may fall victim to deep public spending cuts – leaving people to repair their own defences to guard against storm surges and rising sea levels.

Landowners and residents are being warned they may need to “make do and mend” because multi-million pound “Rolls Royce answers” will be put on the back-burner.

John Gummer, president of Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR), said new local initiatives – such as the community effort to provide the funding for the Bawdsey defences – and alternative strategies such as tyre walls and using willow may have to be considered.

The former MP for Suffolk Coastal who has now taken on a new role as an environment and climate change consultant, said there would be “no absolutes” any more and organisations such as Natural England and the RSPB would need to agree compromises to allow coastal defence and renewal energy schemes to proceed as well as saving wildlife and habitat.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Alde and Ore Association, Mr Gummer deplored the current way in which defences were designed with 100-year plans and three-year budgets arguing that there needed to be more immediacy to deal with problems occurring now.

“We have a system which says where we will be in 100 years’ time and then look at building something we expect to last 50 years, which is ludicrous – and we have a budget for three years, which is manifest nonsense,” he said.

“We don’t know what is going to happen in 100 years and to base our policy on that seems to me to be plain balmy and we don’t have accurate enough information to make those decisions.

“Twenty years is far enough away the longest period in which you could make a reasonable assumption. That’s a sensible long-term.

“Communities will have to be more active, too in the future. It will be our duty to find practical ways of doing things because at the heart of it will be cost-effectiveness.

“I think we are going to have a period where make do and mend will be very important – the Environment Agency’s Rolls Royce answers to things are not going to happen.

“I can see people handing sandbags to each other to fill gaps and landowners will have responsibility to protect their own river walls in the way they can afford to do without people coming along to say you must do it this way.”

Mr Gummer, a former environment minister, said there would still be a need to protect fragile biodiversity but organisations such as Natural England and the RSPB should not have the right to simply say no when nature is threatened.

“I don’t want to lose the great-crested newt but I cannot agree that there should be no no-go areas – there should be compromise to find ways to keep the biodiversity but also have the energy scheme or best defences,” he said.

Two people have been killed in a collision on a road near Newmarket.

Fears have been raised that Suffolk may have a systemic problem with how children’s homes are run after a third establishment was given a poor Ofsted rating in the last 10 weeks.

Jennifer Pearson from Felixstowe claims she had dog mess shoved through her letter box, her tyres slashed, and even had people spit at her – leaving her youngest daughter in tears.

Sixteen people were rescued from rising water after four cars and a bus got stuck in high tide on The Strood crossing at Mersea Island.

A community close to the Essex Suffolk border has been left shocked and saddened following the death of a pedestrian.

The heart of two communities shone through as well-wishers - including an MP - rushed to help people injured in two serious falls.

Suffolk may have enjoyed an almost frost-free winter so far, but the big freeze descended on one town this weekend and so did scores of visitors enticed by the ice.

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