Coastal protest sends message to PM

VIDEO & GALLERY Hundreds of campaigners today formed a human chain along Southwold's promenade to send a message to Gordon Brown about the Governent's policy of abandoning the Suffolk coast to the ravages of the sea.

Mark Lord

HUNDREDS of campaigners today formed a human chain along Southwold's promenade to send a message to Gordon Brown about the Governent's policy of abandoning the Suffolk coast to the ravages of the sea.

The Blyth Estuary protestors - who are angry about the Environment Agency's plans to withdraw funding for flood defences at the Blyth Estuary - took their fight to Mr Brown, who is currently enjoying a summer holiday in the area.

The protesters linked arms and chanted “SOS” while some held banners saying: “Gord Help Us. Save Our Shoreline.”

Mr Brown, his wife Sarah and sons John, four and Fraser, two, are currently staying at Shadingfield Hall, near Halesworth, and will spend the next two weeks enjoying the beauty of the Suffolk coast.

However, after the Environment Agency announced last year it can no longer financially justify the protection of the Blyth Estuary from flooding and that it will now carry out a policy of managed retreat, much of the landscape currently being enjoyed by the Prime Minister and his family will disappear in the coming years.

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Sue Allen, chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, said: “This was a fantastic turnout and sends a tremendous message to Gordon Brown that we are committed to saving the Blyth.

“I want to thank everyone for their support without you this would not happen.”

Seven-year-old Andrew McAlpine took part in the human chain along with his sister, Chloe, 9, and his grandparents.

He said: “I enjoy coming here to Southwold beach for my summer holidays and can't think of anywhere as lovely.

“My grandma has explained to me what might happen in the future, it does seem odd to me that someone wouldn't want other children in years to come to be able to enjoy it too.”

Supporter Karen Solloway added: “It is truly amazing how many people turned out for this, people living around here are fantastic when the call goes out for support they just get on with it and something like this protest happens.”

Margaret Grayson, who has been coming to Southwold for more than 70 years, said: “Mr Brown and his children are holidaying near here and enjoying what the Suffolk coast has to offer, he wants to stop and think about what the Government is suggesting for this area.

“If he doesn't act now then his children's children will not be able to come here and experience what the Brown family are enjoying today.”

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, was among the crowds.

He said: "It's a wonderful opportunity for us, in a very polite, reasonable and sensible way, to say 'this is what the Government is doing.'

“The Prime Minister is here enjoying his holiday with his family and if he wants to come here with his children's families then his Government needs to protect the coast now.

“Our parents and grandparents have always protected the coast and this is the first Government since 1066 to not protect our coastline.”

Walberswick resident and campaign supporter John Ormerod said: “It is really important the Government realises that this is not just about the beaches and the land along the Blyth - people have homes here and live here all year round.

“It appears that the Environment Agency is beginning to listen to what is being said to them by the Blyth Estuary Group and others. The Government needs to realise that local people want to work with the Environment Agency to protect this area.

“The work which needs to be done along the Blyth needs to be done now.”

Poppy Matthews, 15, and her 16-year-old friend Lucy Jessop joined the human chain this morning.

Poppy said: “We wanted to make sure that other generations get to enjoy this piece of the Suffolk coast like we have and our parents did.

“It is important that Gordon Brown listens to what is being said here in Southwold while he is on holiday otherwise the danger is that the Southwold that we all know and love will not be here for others to enjoy.”

Lucy added: “It is amazing to see all of the people here this morning it really shows just how strongly people want to save this area.”

Ruth Walters, another protestor, said: “People look at Southwold and Walberswick and think of just wealthy second homeowners, but that is not the case.

“There is a lot of wealth here but there are a lot of normal, hardworking people here who depend on people coming here for their livelihoods.”