Seawall collapse blamed on funding cut

A DRAMATIC collapse of a seawall and promenade could have been avoided if a multi-million pound Government project had not been delayed, it has been claimed.

A DRAMATIC collapse of a seawall and promenade could have been avoided if a multi-million pound Government project had not been delayed, it has been claimed.

Residents in Holland-on-Sea, near Clacton, woke yesterday to discover a 60-metre section of sea defences was no longer there.

An area of Lower Promenade was immediately cordoned off and bosses from Tendring District Council went to the scene, opposite Queensway, to assess the damage.

Harry Shearing, the councillor in charge of technical services, said the failure of defences along that area of the coastline had been predicted.

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He said: “We have been warning that this could be the eventual outcome at Holland-on-Sea for some time now.

“We have patched up four areas since 2000 but it was very much a 'sticky plaster' job and not the comprehensive scheme that was planned.”

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Mr Shearing said a £24million project had been agreed, but then shelved, by the Government after it decided to change its priorities.

“Had that initiative taken place as first planned then the work at Holland-on-Sea would have been completed by now and we would not be facing this problem.

“I take no delight in the fact that our predictions have come true - quite the opposite - but maybe now the Government will have to take notice of what we have been saying all along,” he said.

The council said it was too early to say what the cost of the repairs would be, but warned that the cliff face could be in jeopardy too if action was not taken.

If the council does decide carry out emergency work it could apply to Defra for grant approval to recoup the costs.

Terry Allen, leader of Tendring District Council, said it was a worrying situation.

“We will get back onto Defra and make a case for funding to carry out whatever remedial work is needed.

“I just hope this can be sorted out as quickly as possible before there is further damage to the sea defences along that stretch of coastline.”

The council said the Government changed the criteria needed to meet the guidelines for grant aid and meant sea defences did not score as highly as some of the inland schemes and slipped down the priority list.

The collapse was just yards along the front from where the council is spending £250,000 reinforcing 200 metres of seawall.

A spokesman for Defra said: “The Government is committed to flood and coastal erosion risk management across the country. It has invested some £4.5billion since 1996/97 and is considering future funding levels. However, there is not a limitless pot and schemes have to be prioritised.

“The scheme at Holland-on-Sea did not score highly enough against other schemes to enable the department to grant aid it at the time.

“Defra will consider any application for funding put forward by the council in respect of emergency works.”

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