Prime Minister set for warm welcome

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has been promised a “very warm” welcome in the Southwold area this weekend - and it won't just be because of the promised hot weather.

Mark Lord

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has been promised a “very warm” welcome in the Southwold area this weekend - and it won't just be because of the promised hot weather.

The pledge has come from Blyth Estuary campaigners, who are fighting to protect the area from flooding. Campaigners will be out in force during Mr Brown's holiday to show the strength of their opposition to the Government's plans to abandon parts of the area to the sea.

Ahead of Mr Brown's expected arrival tomorrow for his summer holiday at Shadingfield Hall, near Halesworth, protesters have said they will gather on the beach at Southwold to voice their anger at the proposed withdrawal of funding for future maintenance of sea and river defences along the Blyth Estuary.

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The Environment Agency, and DEFRA, has decided that no more money will be spent in future in the estuary and surrounding areas to protect the riverbank defences, marshes and beaches from being washed away by the sea because it claims the costs of repairing them are greater than the benefits.

John Huggins, a member of the Blyth Estuary Group which is opposing the Government's policy, said: “We need everyone who loves Southwold and its surrounding area to come to the Southwold promenade on Wednesday, July 30, at 11am to link arms and create a human chain to send a message to Gordon Brown that he needs to reverse the policy of retreat and fund protection up and down our coast.”

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David Webb, another member of the Blyth Estuary Group, added: “Isn't it ironic that Mr Brown should choose to come to a place that his Government is abandoning to the sea.

“If Mr Brown wants to talk economic realities - how about the collapse of a tourist economy worth £25 million if they let the sea come in. That's what this area alone brings in to the economy every year from people like Mr Brown and his family. They come to stay in cottages, B&Bs, and campsites and visit cafes, restaurants, shops and everything else we have to offer. Many of those businesses and jobs are now under threat.”

Simon Tobin, of the Blyth Estuary Group said: “Southwold is a fantastic, timeless place that hundreds of thousands of people love to come to every year. We know Mr Brown and his family will have a fabulous time. But then we need him to go back to Westminster and tell DEFRA to reverse its policy of retreat to save wonderful parts of our coast like this before it's too late.

“If Gordon Brown has his way there will be nowhere for his two boys to get their buckets and spades from and nowhere to buy an ice cream because it will all be washed away.”

Sue Allen, group chairman, added: “Our whole coastline is under threat from the lack of funds for maintaining sea defences - and we need Gordon Brown's help.

“Here in Southwold we are working with the Environment Agency and Natural England and we're going to get the Blyth Estuary river defences fixed. But there's a broader point to be made to DEFRA and Gordon Brown.

“Of course there are other demands on tax money - and the economic climate is tight - but what is more important than preserving our land and our way of life for future generations? This is our heritage. That's why it's called the Heritage Coast.

“Mr Brown's Government announces initiatives to link up coastal paths and say how important our coastline is - and then fail to fund protection of it. The sea coming in is not inevitable. It is just a matter of political will.

“We need him to fund protection of our coastal defences for generations to come. If he sticks his hand in his pocket and funds our defences, then we'll roll out a red carpet the whole length of the promenade for him.”

The last protest held on Walberswick beach attracted more than 2,000 people who gathered to create a human SOS sign on the beach, an indication that local residents will come out again to fight the cause next week.

People can find out more and how to join the campaign at

The Environment Agency said it estimated it would cost £35million to rebuild the walls on the estuary - a cost which could not be justified “when that money is needed to protect thousands of properties across the country."

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