New hope in Blyth estuary battle

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to abandon flood defences along the Blyth Estuary in north Suffolk were offered a glimmer of hope yesterday.

Mark Lord

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to abandon flood defences along the Blyth Estuary in north Suffolk were offered a glimmer of hope yesterday.

The Environment Agency wants to stop repairing the flood walls, which protect land and property around Blythburgh, Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick, because it cannot afford it.

But yesterday, a meeting of the Eastern Area Regional Flood Defence Committee in Ipswich looked at submissions made during the consultation period and asked the EA to reconsider its decision.

Anthony Coe, RFDC chairman, said: “The EA has taken the consultation responses to the strategy extremely seriously and has put in a lot of work to alter the strategy where possible to take account of them.

“But the committee has asked the EA to have another look at the strategy to take better account of the work being done in partnership on the Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan and a study looking in detail at the [Southwold] harbour.”

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Speaking after the meeting, Guy McGregor, county councillor and chairman of the Blyth Strategy Group, said: “This was a very positive outcome - at its very first public airing these proposals fell at the first hurdle. I believe the committee understood that this strategy does not have the backing of local people.”

Sue Allen, Waveney district councillor and chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, added: “The committee members did what they thought was right and as long as the Shoreline Management Plan agrees with us and Waveney District Council continues to work with MEP Geoffrey Van Orden to secure European funding for Southwold harbour then the future for the Blyth looks a bit more positive.”

Dr Charles Beardall, area manager for the EA in the Eastern Region, said: “It would be easy to say that the committee did not support the strategy, but that is not really the case I believe that everyone on the committee understood the national funding cannot be used here.”

He added the EA would continue to work closely with local groups and authorities to use local funding to repair and maintain the flood defences.

“We will now take on board the committee's recommendations,” said Dr Beardall.

Aspects of the strategy will be reviewed as requested and after this the strategy will go through an internal EA approval process which could take 12 months. The strategy will then be formally adopted.

At yesterday's meeting, the RFDC welcomed Suffolk County Council's bid for funding from to raise the A12 at Blythburgh.

The EA reported that in the past year it has spent more than £250,000 on work around the estuary at Palmers Lane, Robinsons Marsh and Reydon Marsh. The flood defences at Tinkers Marsh have been repaired by the landowner, Andrew Blois, and Natural England.

The flood defence bank at Reydon Marsh is nearing the end of its life. The EA announced it is exploring options for joint funding a new flood defence bank with all interested parties to replace the existing bank.