Thorpeness: Erosion seminar hears strategy for future

COLLABORATION was declared the key to maintaining Suffolk’s coastline at a summit of influential delegates.

Fittingly convened overlooking the beach at Thorpeness, The Suffolk Coast and Estuaries Community Conference identified the need for teamwork in protecting the county’s shoreline.

Gathered landowners, society members and local councillors heard from experts and engineers on the subject of curbing erosion and the establishment of the Suffolk Coast Forum – set up in February to succeed the Suffolk Coast Futures group and work with a variety of authorities and organisations.

The conference opened with forum chairman and county councillor David Ritchie’s introduction to the challenges Suffolk faces in protecting its coastline from further retreat. Mr Ritchie referred to King Canute’s vain bid to repel the tide, adding: “The power of nature is always greater than man. Land has always been, and will continue to be, lost to the sea.”

Mr Ritchie was followed by the Environment Agency’s regional flood and coastal risk manager, Jim Hutchison, who said East Anglia faced some of the biggest challenges of any part of the country, with many homes at risk of flooding. He recalled the disaster of 1953 that killed hundreds and left thousands homeless, and described the work done since and the targets now in place to ensure management of a similar event.

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But, with revenue taking a 4.5% hit, Mr Hutchison highlighted the importance of cautious spending, saying: “There’s never going to be enough funding to carry out all the work we want to on the coast.

“Under its new approach, the Government is trying to share money around and look for local funding to bridge the gap.”

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Professor Mike Cowling, the Crown Estate’s chief scientist, then considered our constantly changing coastline and described his role within the agency, which manages most of the seabed and around half of the UK’s foreshore.

Vice chairman of the forum and district councillor for coastal management, Andy Smith, then told the conference of the strategic approach to managing Suffolk’s coast and estuaries. He said: “Funding is our biggest challenge, but working together we can do so much more. We can reduce cost by using local knowledge and resources. We must maximise our share of limited resources.”

Mr Smith added that Suffolk was leading the way nationally and had a strong case for the future.

Local groups also took the opportunity to highlight their work to ensure a future for people and wildlife in the face of difficult changes along the coast and estuaries.

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