MP voices flooding fears

THE threat of flooding is the single biggest problem affecting Suffolk's coastline, a politician has claimed.The warning came as it was revealed more than 70,000 properties in the region are at risk of flooding.

THE threat of flooding is the single biggest problem affecting Suffolk's coastline, a politician has claimed.

The warning came as it was revealed more than 70,000 properties in the region are at risk of flooding.

The Environment Agency today publishes its most comprehensive and up-to-date map of the flood risk from rivers and the sea across England and Wales.

And John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has used the moment to voice his "deep concern" about the impact of flooding on the county's shoreline.

He is now forming a new group, Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR).

He said: "I want to bring together people in Suffolk to do something about retreat.

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"In places like East Point, in Bawdsey, if we allow the sea to break through there the land goes but it also changes the way the water runs and we release a huge new trouble for ourselves. It is the number one problem for Suffolk."

He added: "This is very serious. If we allow the sea to break in it changes the way sediment comes down the coast and it could have an effect on the rivers Orwell and Deben. It will also increase the need for dredging.

"I have been warning people about this for years and fighting the battle. These 73,000 people will also not get insurance to protect them. Many of them will find it very difficult to get insurance for their homes."

"We will have to get increased funding and defend our coast," he said. "The Dutch do not leave their coast unprotected. It is unacceptable."

The Environment Agency's new Flood Map allows homeowners and businesses to see online for the first time whether their area is at risk and the level of danger their properties are considered to be in.

It shows that there are a total of 73,000 properties in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk that have a low, moderate or significant chance of becoming flooded.

This is a drop of 5,000 from the old "indicative flood plain map", which was last produced in 2001, although the agency has put this down to more refined mapping, which has included local surveys and expert knowledge.

The grade of risk takes into consideration the proximity of an area to rivers and the coast but it does not include the threat of surface water flooding.

The map outline also now shows the Environment Agency's best estimate of places that could be affected by an extreme flood, recognising that the likelihood of flooding occurring at these outer margins of the mapped area could be as low as a one in 1,000 chance in any year.

However it said it will help local authorities plan for flood risk and prevent inappropriate development in flood plains, as well as inform people living there of the remote risk.

The map, which will be updated every three months, also shows the presence and protection given by flood defences that are less than five years old and built to a certain standard.

Jeremy Bloomfield, strategic planning manager for the Environment Agency, said the map shows there are few defences in East Anglia meeting that criteria.

However he stressed the map does not comment on their standard or efficacy or reveal the defences that are older or built to a different standard.

"Nothing has changed on the Suffolk coast," he said. "There are not areas where there is major degradation and they do not make us worry that they will fall down."

Chairman of the Environment Agency, Sir John Harman, said: "We want to provide as much information as possible as soon as it is available to help people understand if they are at risk and what to do to prepare for flooding.

"Flooding is a natural phenomenon that will become more frequent as climate change leads to more extreme weather conditions.

"There are practical steps we all must take to reduce the impact of flooding – and that starts with being better informed and using that information."

The Flood Map can be accessed at www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

The Environment Agency's 24-hour Floodline, which offers information and advice, is on 0845 988 1188.

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