Partnership key to protecting Suffolk’s vulnerable coastline

Left to right, Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Deben and Graham Henderso

Left to right, Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Deben and Graham Henderson, SCAR chairman, at the SCAR annual meeting at the Riverside Centre, Stratford St Andrew. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Millions of pounds of partnership funding from private and public sectors will be the only way to protect Suffolk’s beautiful but vulnerable coastline in the years ahead, campaigners have been told.

Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR) was warned that future cuts would leave no alternative but for communities to dip more and more into their own pockets.

It could be that funds generated locally would be enough to trigger Government help for projects the community wanted in cases where full funding was not felt justified.

Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency (EA), said there were tough challenges ahead but it was essential the agency, communities and other organisations worked together to overcome them.

He highlighted how £11million of contributions had been made to a £30m flood defence scheme in Ipswich, while £16m from a variety of sources were being made to a £25m project in Lowestoft.

At Thorpeness residents contributed £137,000 towards sea defence work.

More work is still needed with protection for Benacre, Slaughden at Aldeburgh, East Lane, Bawdsey, and Felixstowe Ferry still unresolved.

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Sir Philip said finance wasn’t the only reason for partnership working and local knowledge, technical expertise and ideas could be shared with communities working in harmony with the EA.

He said: “We have invested heavily in protecting the Suffolk coastline and where expenditure is justified we will continue to do so but our duty is to justify that public expenditure.

“The challenges we face with climate change and rises in sea level are going to require strong community partnership to resolve these issues.”

The agency now had a six-year £2.3bn funding programme to enable it to plan more efficiently and effectively but the money was not enough for all the work needed around the country’s coast.

Sir Philip said: “In addition to the £2.3bn we will need to attract £580m in partnership funding. That’s a big number and bigger than we have previously achieved. Around 25% of the funding came from private sources and we need to find ways to increase that percentage in future.

“Where a scheme would not justify the spending of public money, partnership funding could be the trigger that tips it from being undeliverable to deliverable.

“I am clear the EA must keep going down this path of looking at partnership funding.

“The EA priority, in my view, is to put communities at the heart of what we are doing, and working in close collaboration with all the groups along the coast is absolutely fundamental to securing the outcomes financially when local aspirations are greater than Government funding allows.”

SCAR patron Lord Deben feared Government cash would not be enough – events such as the 2013 tidal surge could have been five times worse.

He said: “Because we have been lucky, we think we have been clever, and we have not been clever – we have been lucky.

“If we are not careful Government will go on squeezing the maintenance work and the effect of not doing those regular things means it will cost more in future years.”