Minister backs ideas for coastal defences

A GOVERNMENT minister has praised the “innovative” efforts of people living on the Suffolk coast in tackling coastal erosion.

Richard Benyon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was invited to the region yesterday by Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP.

He was given a tour of several key locations along the county’s coastline, including a final stop in Aldeburgh, and spent time talking to residents, farmers and members of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The CLA organised the visit and has called on Mr Benyon to help move coastal defence policy on to a “new way of working”, and demonstrated ways in which landowners and communities could be part of the solution.

Mr Benyon said he had found the visit very helpful and would take back many new ideas to discuss with his parliamentary colleagues.

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He said: “I have been looking at all sorts of different schemes to protect the coastline and hearing from local people about the challenges we have in the future, and it doesn’t come much more important than this.

“The message I take away of what Government has to do is to try to make it as easy as possible for innovative solutions to be found.”

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Nicola Currie, CLA director for the eastern region, said members had shown Mr Benyon that locally-initiated projects, such as the one which has already proved successful at Bawdsey, could be part of a broader solution.

At Bawdsey, local landowners financed sea defences in a new scheme, approved by Suffolk Coastal District Council, where they donated farmland to a specially-formed trust which sold it to developers for housing, using the funds raised to carry out the work and protect a large area of land, villages and farms, as well as the 200-year-old Martello Tower.

Mrs Currie said: “In the past, each generation has done what it can to defend our coastline. By putting into action the coalition’s localism agenda, coastal defence policy can be changed to enable a new way of working.”

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