New sea defences to protect coastline

AN innovative scheme to save a vulnerable stretch of coastline from the ravages of the sea is now complete - and just in the nick of time if this latest photograph is anything to go by.

Craig Robinson

AN innovative scheme to save a vulnerable stretch of coastline from the ravages of the sea is now complete - and just in the nick of time if this latest photograph is anything to go by.

Work to protect the cliffs, Martello Tower and two homes in East Lane, Bawdsey, near Woodbridge, has finally finished following years of uncertainty.

Campaigners feared the coastline would be swept away and large areas of low lying farmland would be flooded if nothing was done.

But the defence scheme was low on a list of national priorities and the Government said it could not pay for any work.

As result the East Lane Trust (ELT) was formed and the group came up with a ground breaking community project to raise the vital funds.

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Suffolk Coastal District Council granted permission for 26 new homes to be built on land at Bawdsey, Alderton and Hollesley and those sites were then marketed to potential developers.

The money generated through their sale was used by the local authority - which had to break planning policy to allow houses on land normally safeguarded for development - to pay for the improvements.

The land at Bawdsey and Alderton has been sold and negotiations are still underway for the site at Hollesley.

But the project - which has cost in the region of �2.4million - is now complete, much to the delight of all those involved.

Gerry Matthews, developer of the East Lane Trust initiative, said: “I'm very pleased. I think the Martello Tower and one of the cottages would have to have been demolished so it's very timely.

“It is the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort. The reality of the situation united the three parishes. We all worked hard to produce a local answer to the funding gap.”

John Fell-Clark, owner of the Martello Tower, said: “I've spent 12 years campaigning - it's a great moment. Its terrific news and a culmination of a tremendous effort by everyone involved. It really has come just in the nick of time.

“It's been a huge battle, not just in terms of funding but with all the other issues we've had to sort out as well. For example work should have started in October but the ship carrying the rocks sank.

“I'm ecstatic that after all these years the defences are complete. The tower and other properties are now safe for the foreseeable future.”

The scheme has been praised at a national level and Andy Smith, Suffolk Coastal cabinet member for coastal management, was recently invited in front of the House of Commons Select Committee.

“It was a very proactive and innovative approach to the planning side and got the job done,” he said. “There can have been few other examples of such close effective and productive joint working between the community and the statutory bodies.

“At a national level it's been recognised as quite significant. It's being looked at quite seriously as a way of getting things done in the future.”