Three-county force will fight erosion

A THREE-COUNTY task force has been set up to press the Government to take action to halt erosion of parts of the East Anglian coast.Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR) was formed last year to fight plans to abandon some areas to the sea and to press the Government to change the way it assesses which defences it financially supports.

A THREE-COUNTY task force has been set up to press the Government to take action to halt erosion of parts of the East Anglian coast.

Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR) was formed last year to fight plans to abandon some areas to the sea and to press the Government to change the way it assesses which defences it financially supports.

The group fears that without adequate protection, eroding stretches of the coast, including the East Lane hamlet at Bawdsey, will be lost and the coastal landscape changed.

SCAR is now joining up with organisations in Norfolk and Essex to press the Government to fund the defences needed to guard the region from the effects of the sea.


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However, English Nature warned last night that preventing erosion in some areas might have a detrimental knock-on effect for other coastal sea defences.

But John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal and president of SCAR, said: “The dangerous thing is they try to pick us off - a bit of change here and there and never facing up to what happens if you put the changes together.

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“That's why we are putting SCAR together with Norfolk and Essex. We want to demonstrate that each one of these small decisions can have a huge impact.

“We want the Government to stop this 'divide and rule' and start looking at the whole of the eastern seaboard and the way to defend it as a whole.”

The new group will continue to fight the Government's policy of abandoning defences that are deemed not cost-effective, on the basis that they are unsustainable and do not protect a large number of people or businesses.

Mr Gummer said: “We have to keep this at the top of the agenda as if we let it drop all that will happen is that the Government will save money by shifting money from sea protection to flood protection inland.

“I think it's a really serious and damaging attitude, which is to know what is happening but refuse to provide the resources necessary to avoid it.

“The landscape would change hugely and a great number of people would lose land and houses. Towns like Aldeburgh and Southwold would be threatened and become islands. This will be a direct affect of taking the measures the Government is at the moment.”

SCAR is made up of both elected and non-elected pressure groups and official bodies, ranging from Felixstowe ferry representatives to individuals at Shingle Street and Bawdsey.

Mr Gummer confirmed the issue at the top of the new three-county agenda would be the Environment Agency's plans for the estuaries. Proposals to protect Walberswick from rising sea levels by realigning the river and flooding marshes along the Blyth are already under consultation.

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: “Every single flood project in the country, regardless of where it is, is assessed on how many people it would protect and the environment it would protect and businesses and the economy. There is no distinction between sea or inland waterways.

“We do not decide which projects apply to us for funding. All we can do is to assess what comes to us and decide whether, on the basis of that particular application, it merits funding for the reasons I have just outlined.

“It is not the Government that is sectioning off the coast. It's the people that apply for flood defence schemes. It sounds like he (Mr Gummer) has not got a handle on how the process works.”

Nick Sibbert, assistant Suffolk team leader for English Nature, said: “Erosion is a natural process and if you prevent it in one area you risk damaging another.

“Material eroded from one point recharges the beaches in others so ill-considered sea defence schemes can be damaging to other stretches.”

Mr Sibbert said one of the benefits of erosion of cliffs was the uncovering of valuable geological data.

Steve Hayman, Environment Agency coastal manager for the Anglian region, said: “We are already trying to take a holistic approach to the East Anglian coast through shoreline management plans based on our understanding of good science.”

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