Funding setback for harbour wall repairs

POTENTIAL problems securing funding could delay repairs which are urgently needed to stop more of Southwold harbour wall crumbling into the sea.

POTENTIAL problems securing funding could delay repairs which are urgently needed to stop more of Southwold harbour wall crumbling into the sea.

Harbour users and officers from Waveney District Council have agreed that urgent action needs to be taken to prevent the structure from becoming even more precarious, but concerns have been raised over where the money to fund the repairs will come from.

The existing breach in the north dock wall worsened last week as two more sections of the concrete wall fell into the sea. Now the car park behind it has started to slump and material is leaching into the water.

Graham Hay Davison, chairman of the Southwold Harbour and River Blyth Users' Association, said that a new report drawn up by structural engineers concludes that the only solution is to replace the whole structure with a sheet piling wall.

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The harbour, which lies at the mouth of the Blyth estuary, is part of a system of walls which protect businesses, farmland and homes in Southwold, Walberswick, Reydon and Blythburgh from flooding.

The Environment Agency (EA) plans to stop maintaining defences around the estuary over the next 20 years because they cannot afford the estimated �35m needed to repair them.

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The EA has also said that maintaining the flood walls is not financially viable because the decreasing level of sedimentation in the estuary will lead to more and more flooding in future. This could mean that Waveney District Council would have difficulty securing government funding for any work which they may want to undertake on the harbour wall.

Mr Hay Davison said that recent research has proved that sediment is still being deposited in the estuary, but unless these findings are backed by the EA, money problems could still prevail. “It is this issue and this issue alone that is holding up the funding of the dock wall repairs,” he said.

He added: “The replacement of the north dock wall is vital to the future of Southwold, Southwold harbour and the integrity of the Blyth estuary.”

A Waveney District Council spokesman said: “We had a very productive meeting and we have agreed that we need to urgently review the work that needs to be undertaken, and look at all the option for more substantial repairs. Things are moving forward and we are looking for solutions and opportunities for funding.”

Mark Johnson, Environment Agency Area Coastal Manager, said: “We are exploring, with groups in the area, ways we might be able to extend the life of key defences in the estuary, but a solution to the problems there is not straightforward to find.”

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