Radical overhaul of flood defences

A RADICAL overhaul of Essex's flood defences is being planned in a bid to prevent some of the county's finest assets being lost to the sea, the EADT can reveal.

James Hore

A RADICAL overhaul of Essex's flood defences is being planned in a bid to prevent some of the county's finest assets being lost to the sea, the EADT can reveal.

An Anglian Regional Flood Defence Committee currently operates from Peterborough but Essex County Council has said it wants to be in charge of its own arrangements.

There was “severe” flooding in parts of the county this summer, but there is concern local flood prevention schemes have been losing out on possible funding.

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A draft report by the council into flood defence and prevention claims sea defences in some areas are currently nothing more than a “sticking plaster” to prevent coastal erosion.

However, the cost of providing sea defence walls is £8million per kilometre, meaning local councils simply can't afford such outlay without a major funding injection.

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The future of the famous Naze Tower in Walton is addressed in the report and the council reveals it would be feasible to save it.

At the current rate of coastal erosion, it is predicted that the tower will be lost to the sea within 30 years. The draft document prepared for councillors reveals concern that the flood defence committee in Peterborough does not offer the “best deal for Essex”.

The council will now consider -

n Lobbying the Government for more funding for sea defences.

n Creating a register of landowners to ensure they are held accountable for their hedges and ditches.

n Asking for the Naze scheme at Walton be given “sympathetic consideration”.

n Putting the county back in charge of its own flood defence arrangements.

Tracey Chapman, the councillor in charge of the environment, told the EADT she wanted to see common sense prevail in relation to defending the county's coastline.

She said: “Essex's flood defence committee was never happy to become part of a much larger organisation as we want our taxpayers' money spent here, not in neighbouring counties.

“We have 350 miles of coastline, equivalent to London to Edinburgh in one long line, and given that length of coastline and local knowledge we have here, I think it should be down to us to manage it.”

Mrs Chapman said managed retreat - allowing coastal erosion to take its course - made sense in some areas, but claimed preventing famers from constructing their own defences just did not make sense.

“Managed retreat is not the answer for most of the coastline because we do have some very good farmland and assets here.

“We cannot put people's lives at risk and I am not keen to put famers' livelihoods at risk.

“With the Naze Tower we have come up against Natural England who want the cliffs to erode naturally, but there needs to be some common sense I think.”

Councillors are due to review the flooding defence policy document shortly.

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