Growing threat to region's coastline

THE shape of the East Anglian coast could change beyond recognition if the sea is allowed to swallow up a Martello Tower, it has been claimed.Allowing the sea to breach defences at East Lane Point, Bawdsey, could have major knock-on effects for the region.

THE shape of the East Anglian coast could change beyond recognition if the sea is allowed to swallow up a Martello Tower, it has been claimed.

Allowing the sea to breach defences at East Lane Point, Bawdsey, could have major knock-on effects for the region.

The warning came as it was revealed that storm waves could cause the ancient fort - which was used to defend Britain against Napoleon - to fall into the sea as soon as this winter.

The resulting change in the coastal dynamic could see Southwold and Aldeburgh turn into islands and Shingle Street wiped off the map. Acres of the beautifully bare landscape along the coast and precious agricultural land could be submerged.

John Gummer, the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “If you think about Southwold, it was originally the base of Sole Bay. All the sides of that bay have been washed away and already Southwold is becoming almost like an island.

“It would go from being the base of a bay to a promontory and the houses on Easton Bavents would be pulled into the sea.

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“The problem is that if we lose East Lane Point then you alter the whole way in which the coastal drift happens and you begin to have the real possibility of Aldeburgh being chopped in from behind.

“The real problems of the change in coastal drift is we will not be able to protect that bit. The real worry is that if the sea breaks through the likelihood is that Aldeburgh will become in effect an island and the low lying land will have the sea come up and over it.

“It is extremely dangerous. But, also, if there is a change in coastal drift it will carry a lot more of the debris right down to the river Orwell and Deben.

“The Orwell already needs dredging in order for the Haven Ports to work at Harwich, Felixstowe and Ipswich. This would increase the need for dredging there and to a large extent it would be very bad for Felixstowe port.

“If we lose the Martello Tower it will be a scandal. It would be very sad if we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar next year by losing one of the Martello Towers used to protect Britain from the French.”

He added: “With climate change meaning we have higher tides and higher waves it could happen this winter.”

A £2.5million scheme to give the point long-term protection stalled, as the Martello “W” did not score the 20 points needed for funding under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) new system.

Suffolk Coastal District Council financed an emergency flood defence scheme to protect the tower, after hearing there were only 10metres of soft clay cliff left in front of it. The project, which should start on October 25, cost £150,000 with £30,000 provided by Mr Fell-Clark and two of his neighbours.

Meanwhile Mr Fell-Clark, 58, who converted the tower to retire there, is looking for private funding for the £2.5million scheme.

However, if the water is allowed to breach the frontage it could cost even more to defend the land from further erosion.

He said: “Between the tower and East Lane Point there is a big hole opening up to the north of us. Unless they agree to plug that we are in real danger.

“We are not talking of just a Martello Tower - now it's a much bigger issue. The Martello Tower happens to be sitting on the point that has to be defended.

“We really feel like the boys with the finger in the dyke. We have to hold the line until the Government does what it said it would do.

“These group of four Martello Towers are very important. It is not just the loss of my private property. It would mean the loss of heritage assets and the potential future loss of a huge number of communities as they are flooded or cut off.”

Peter Boggis, from Easton Bavents, has also privately funded sea defences to protect his property and the beach at nearby Southwold.

He said: “As far as Easton Bavents is concerned, we have been subjected for the last 10 years to managed retreat. The effect of it has been that we have lost a massive amount of land to the sea without any gain at all to the adjacent side.

“The cliff has been cut back and down to a promontory exposed to the sea.”

Mr Boggis has used 50,000 tonnes of clay to replace the natural sea defence but he said this now needs to be increased to 150,000 tonnes to stop 10m of land being lost every year and Southwold turning into an island.

Andy Smith, responsible for coastal protection and deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council, said the new Government scheme had left the stretch of coastline “stranded and virtually defenceless”.

However Steve Hayman, coastal manager for the Environment Agency in the Anglian region, questioned whether the change at one part of the coast would have such far-reaching effects.

He said: “We are monitoring the situation closely. If things deteriorate to a critical point we will use what money we can raise to deal with that particular point where the problem occurs.”

A spokeswoman for Defra said: “We have done a lot around the East Anglian coast and spent a lot of money maintaining the existing places.

“We have to make difficult choices about prioritising the defences we have got.

“If we spent the money at East Lane we would not be able to spend the money elsewhere. There is an enormous amount of movement along the coastline. Your coastline has been changing for thousands of years.”

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