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Action call on fort defences

PUBLISHED: 20:02 30 January 2002 | UPDATED: 15:24 03 March 2010

MASSIVE storm waves are breaking up vital sea defences protecting an historic coastal fort, putting the land around the monument at risk.

Gale-forced winds have sent the sea smashing into the concrete promenade in front of Landguard Fort at Felixstowe - causing the sheet steep piling to pull away from the wall.

MASSIVE storm waves are breaking up vital sea defences protecting an historic coastal fort, putting the land around the monument at risk.

Gale-forced winds have sent the sea smashing into the concrete promenade in front of Landguard Fort at Felixstowe – causing the sheet steep piling to pull away from the wall.

This has left a gap of half a metre, broken part of the concrete and caused slabs to sink, and now the sea is sucking out material from beneath the wall.

Suffolk Coastal council is fencing off the area and has asked English Heritage, owners of the monument, to take urgent action.

The area taking a battering is to the immediate south of the John Bradfield Viewing Area, directly in front of the Second World War gun batteries.

There has been severe erosion of the beach – which is exposed at low tide, although the sea fills the harbour at high tide – in the past two years.

Now it is undermining the steel piling, which goes down a considerable depth.

One coastal expert said: "If the sea continues to pummel the wall there, that stretch of walkway could fail altogether and collapse.

"This would then leave the shingle bank protecting the fort at risk, and could leave part of the viewing area at the mercy of the waves."

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal council said the Coastguard had reported the problems yesterday and it was believed the damage was caused during storms over the weekend.

Council officers had been to inspect the damage and the area would be fenced off as a stop-gap measure to protect the public.

It was a "significant failure" of the sheet steel piling.

"We have immediately informed English Heritage, who are responsible for that stretch of sea defence, and asked them to deal with it as a matter of urgency," said the council spokesmen.

Landguard Fort was the scene of the last attempted invasion of England when Dutch soldiers tried to storm its walls in 1667. It remained an important pivot of the country's coastal defences for nearly 300 years, serving in two world wars.

Work is currently taking place to turn the fort into a major visitor attraction and archaeologists have been on site for some months, excavating buried gun batteries to open up more of the building to the public.

Although it is run by a charitable trust, English Heritage is responsible for the fort and its land. Steps leading from the damaged defences to the beach have been suspended in mid-air because of erosion of the shore for more than 18 months, awaiting action to repair them and let them be used again.

WEBLINK: www.english-heritage.org.uk

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