Flood scheme to keep sea at bay

ONE of Suffolk's most vulnerable coastal communities should be safe from flooding for the next century following the completion of a £12 million sea defence project.

Richard Cornwell

ONE of Suffolk's most vulnerable coastal communities should be safe from flooding for the next century following the completion of a £12 million sea defence project.

Residents of Felixstowe's low-lying south area have lived with the worry of the waves for several years, the spectre of the tragic 1953 floods never far from mind.

Climate change raising sea levels and predictions of increasing numbers of storms and sea surges have added to the fears.

But now 70,000 tonnes of rock and 500,000 tonnes of sand and shingle should keep the area safe, as well as providing a new sandy shore to entice more visitors.

To mark the completion of the project, a plaque on a large piece of rock was unveiled at the top of Orford Road by Jim Bidwell, chairman of Suffolk Coastal council, and Tony Coe, chairman of the regional flood defence group.

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Mr Bidwell said the new defences - 21 fish-tail rock groynes - had transformed the beach, which had previously featured dilapidated century-old concrete breakwaters, severe erosion, and a shored-up prom.

“This new beach is now a major benefit to the town, visitors and local businesses,” he said.

“We expect to see a lot more people along this stretch of the prom enjoying this wonderful beach.

“These defences will ensure the wellbeing of residents and the general wellbeing of Felixstowe over the next 100 years and will protect nearly 1,000 homes, 500 businesses and the town's major employer, the port.”

Mr Coe, who lives in Felixstowe, praised the team work which had brought together a variety of bodies to plan, secure the finance and build the defences.

“This is a scheme that has not been without its problems, not least of which was obtaining the necessary funding to progress it. The outcome is one that will bring benefits to residents and visitors to Felixstowe alike,” he said.

The Environment Agency managed and paid for the project, working in partnership with Suffolk Coastal council, design consultants, and contractors Team Van Oord, who had several challenges to overcome during construction.

Bert Groenewoud , of the contractors, said: “The team had to cope with the discovery of a 500kg bomb on the beach and having the Royal Navy lose it.

“During that time, the delivery of rock shipments from France had to be changed as the exclusion zones were moved and the rock barge had to anchor at a number of different locations off the coast for a while.”

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