Martlesham: Flood impact may last years for farmers

One of the breaches to the river wall at Martlesham Creek during the storm surge earlier this month.

One of the breaches to the river wall at Martlesham Creek during the storm surge earlier this month. - Credit: Archant

Landowners are mourning the loss of valuable crops and fresh water grazing fields following the worst flooding in living memory along a stretch of Suffolk river.

Breaches to the river wall at Martlesham Creek may be irreparable without costly reconstruction, according to the Deben Estuary Partnership (DEP).

Although most major defences held up to surges earlier this month – thanks to work by the Environment Agency (EA) and landowners following the 1953 floods – walls overtopped in all but one flood cell and breaches opened to the north and south of Martlesham Creek.

The DEP said cattle had to be rescued from the flood along the north bank, where a 30m wide breach left 30 acres of grazing land underwater.

Landowner William Notcutt said a weaker area of the river wall had “popped” and flooded an area which has now being drained. Meanwhile, an area of rough grazing land could take two or three years for rain to be wash clear of saltwater.

To the south, there were three breaches – the largest being about 20m wide – which scoured a surge hole and a channel 6ft deep at low water, allowing continuous flooding at every high tide.

Some 70 acres of grazing land was left underwater or contaminated with salt.

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James Foskett, who leases the land, said a 25 acre marsh had been sandbagged in an effort to drain the water, but that the water was too deep elsewhere and that other methods, including a possible ‘false wall’ would be explored in the new year.

The DEP said it had discussed repairs with the EA but believes constraints on Government funding will mean a lack of financial aid where only farm land has been affected. Chairman Christine Block said: “The EA will do all it can to steer emergency repairs through any required legislative procedure and the DEP will assist landowners who must struggle to do what they can based on ‘self-help’.

“Finding sufficient funding to close the major gaps in the walls without help from the EA will be a major task and financial contributions from other sources will have to be sought if we are to safeguard the estuary for the future.”

Flooding along the estuary will be a key concern of the emerging DEP Plan, due to be finalised over the next year.

Karen Thomas, EA coastal advisor, said visits were being made to ascertain flood issues and how plans can be developed for future flooding.