Leaders in plea for flood funding

COMMUNITY leaders today made a desperate plea for low-lying Felixstowe to be treated as “an urgent special case” over a £10 million sea defence scheme to avoid a flooding disaster.

COMMUNITY leaders today made a desperate plea for low-lying Felixstowe to be treated as “an urgent special case” over a £10 million sea defence scheme to avoid a flooding disaster.

As revealed exclusively in the Evening Star last week, Whitehall officials have said no to a grant this year - because they have already allocated all their aid to other projects.

It looks like the scheme - set to take place this spring - is facing a year's delay.

But Suffolk Coastal claims that without it, more than 1,600 homes, three caravan sites, a school, tourist attractions and Britain's top port - property worth more than £400m - could be at risk.

Council engineers say if the current low beach levels continue parts of the sea wall are at severe risk of at least partial collapse, most likely around the Shore Break café in Sea Road.

The council would then have to consider if the beach or prom must be closed - and warns the result of indefinite continuous closure “is likely to be catastrophic to the town and the district”.

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It has now written to the government, and sent a detailed case to DEFRA urging it to give £5m - half the cost of the scheme.

Andy Smith, deputy leader of the council said: “The current defences are derelict and we were ready to replace them this May. “Government guidelines and announcements over a long period had clearly indicated funding would be available.

“However, in December the government announced its budgets were fully committed so it could not fund any new schemes in 2006/07 - the first time ever that no funds were available.”

Mr Smith said the council was warning the government it would be enormously expensive, and well beyond the council's means, to put in any major short-term measures to safeguard the area until the national funds are available.

He added: “We are urging the government to treat our scheme on its merits and recognise that it is an urgent special case.”

Without the defences there was a major risk of serious storm damage.

Chief executive Stephen Baker said: “I believe the costs and risks to the public and the national interest justify an exceptional decision.”

Are you worried about the risk of flooding? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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