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Landowners abandon plans to pay for protection of beauty spot at risk

PUBLISHED: 05:30 25 March 2019

Left to right: David Kemp, coastal manager for the Environment Agency; Prof Jane Maxim, Trustee and Funding Committee chairman; Giles Bloomfield, easter area manager ESIDB; Sir Edward Greenwell, chairman Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership; and Karen Thomas, partnership and strategy manager ESIDB Picture: SUPPLIED BY ALDE AND ORE ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP

Left to right: David Kemp, coastal manager for the Environment Agency; Prof Jane Maxim, Trustee and Funding Committee chairman; Giles Bloomfield, easter area manager ESIDB; Sir Edward Greenwell, chairman Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership; and Karen Thomas, partnership and strategy manager ESIDB Picture: SUPPLIED BY ALDE AND ORE ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP

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Controversial proposals to build new homes in one of Suffolk's most precious and vulnerable landscapes to pay for its protection from catastrophic flooding will not take place, it has been revealed.

The Alde and Ore estuary - looking from Snape Maltings in the foreground towards Aldeburgh and the sea in the distance Picture: MIKE PAGEThe Alde and Ore estuary - looking from Snape Maltings in the foreground towards Aldeburgh and the sea in the distance Picture: MIKE PAGE

Instead, landowners and farmers are confident they can find the millions of pounds needed from other sources.

Building the properties would have generated around £7m to help the project to raise river walls in the Alde and Ore estuary area – though opponents labelled it “planning creep” and feared more homes would put additional pressure on the estuary area.

But while costs of the work have risen substantially, organisers of the project and appeal say the money can be raised without the need for the housing, called enabling development, on exception sites in countryside where new homes would not normally be allowed.

Initially the aim was to build up to 140 homes – later the number was reduced to 15 to 17 more expensive properties.

The beautiful Alde and Ore estuary which is faces potential catastrophic flooding unless its river defences are upgraded Picture: MIKE PAGEThe beautiful Alde and Ore estuary which is faces potential catastrophic flooding unless its river defences are upgraded Picture: MIKE PAGE

Costs of the work have risen from an initial projection of £12million to £26.9m, including a £5.1m contingency, which would covers 44 kilometers of river wall from Snape to Shingle Street, taking seven to eight years to complete.

So far £4m has been raised including a £3m fund from landowners and farmers in the estuary through the East Suffolk Internal Drainage Board (IDB).

The landowners and farmers have also agreed, having discussed the issue with The Estuary Partnership and Trust, to withdraw their plans for enabling development.

The Alde & Ore Estuary Trust, the charity responsible for local fundraising, is confident that they have identified how to raise the funds.

Provided around £10.5m in Government funding is achieved, it is anticipated that a further £12m needs to be raised locally over the next seven years.

This will include local levy funding, Community Infrastructure Levy money, parish precept, sums from local donors, landowners, charities and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Professor Jane Maxim, Trustee and Funding Group chairman said: “We are delighted that Garfield Weston Foundation has given us a grant of £500,000 of which £100,000 is for match funding.

“A further charity application will be made this spring, and we are now beginning to explore a HLF grant application for the lower estuary. We are poised to raise considerable funds, but we will need further support, energy and commitment from the local community.”

Why is the work needed and what will it involve?

With a local economy of over £100million per annum, there is a huge economic and environmental benefit to managing the estuary defences for at least another 30 years, making allowances for both climate change and sea level rise in the future.

Detailed modelling by HR Wallingford (an independent flood risk consultant) has provided a robust model for the estuary since the 2013 surge and confirms that the works can be delivered in line with the Estuary Plan. This is a pioneering adaptive approach providing over-toppable but resilient defences which will give some 300 homes around the estuary a reduced risk of flooding.

The aim is to make river walls more ‘resilient’, acknowledging that in the event of a tidal surge, water would still come over the defences but a slight redesign could prevent breaches and minimise damage to farmland.

Costs are based on a design of an engineering and environmental standard, which is required to attract Government funding (Flood Defence Grant in Aid).

The drainage board, responsible for project managing the upgrade, have been advised that potentially £10.5million of Government funds could be applied for in view of the national assets in the Alde and Ore Estuary. These include Snape Maltings and a wealth of internationally recognised wildlife habitats and, in the lower part of the Estuary, extensive grazing marshes which provide fresh water to irrigate this nationally important vegetable growing area.

However, there is no guarantee, even if the Environment Agency (EA) confirm eligibility for Government funding, that it will be allocated.

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