July 23 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Communities in east Suffolk have called for assurances that a major sea defence scheme will be funded centrally – without the need for their own contributions.
The Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership (AOEP) has reported encouraging progress in funding small-scale flood defences – but members are concerned they will be asked to make further contributions towards a multi-million pound seawall scheme in Slaughden near Aldeburgh. The fears were raised when an Environment Agency (EA) officer disclosed the need to find funding for a “major capital project” at the AOEP’s annual meeting.
Partnership chairman Sir Edward Greenwell said that while it was reasonable to expect local communities to contribute towards low “cost benefit ratio” schemes, such as those the AOEP has been working towards, major sea defences should remain a national funding priority.
“The distinction we’ve been maintaining thus far is that while we can accept the need to find local contributions for the soft estuary defences, when you get to the large scale coastal defences it’s beyond what local property owners or parish councils can cope with,” he said.
“Aldeburgh, particularly because of the music, but also because of its attraction to visitors from all over Britain, should be treated as a national, or certainly a regional, issue.”
The AOEP is already trying to raise between £5m and £7m for estuary defences that the EA has reduced its funding for. Landowners have offered to sell 40 sites in the region under the Enabling Development scheme to help pay for the defences. The scheme removes restrictions from sites which are usually prohibited from development in view of the wider benefits from doing so.
Despite the successes so far, Sir Edward said the partnership would be unable to raise the additional millions to support the seawall project.
“The partnership will struggle to achieve what it has to do in the estuary – and that was without expecting to support any large sea defence projects,” he said.
Any shortfall not covered by the Government or EA, Sir Edward believes, should come from the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) – formed from the county councils in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk.
A spokesman for the EA said it had become more challenging to maintain the Slaughden frontage following the December storm surge but recognised its importance for the wider estuary.
“We are keen to establish a technically feasible and economically viable solution in discussion with others locally and a meeting is being scheduled with the AOEP,” the spokesman added.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the Slaughden project had not yet advanced enough to bid for the RFCC funding.