Sea work set to hit tax payers' pockets
GOVERNMENT refusal of grant aid for a desperately-needed sea defence scheme could cost council tax payers £40,000 a year, it was revealed today.Engineers have warned that the defences at East Lane, Bawdsey, could fail within two years – and two years after that two homes and an historically important Martello Tower could be lost to the waves.
GOVERNMENT refusal of grant aid for a desperately-needed sea defence scheme could cost council tax payers £40,000 a year, it was revealed today.
Engineers have warned that the defences at East Lane, Bawdsey, could fail within two years – and two years after that two homes and an historically important Martello Tower could be lost to the waves.
Councillors are now being recommended to approach the owners of the homes at risk to see if they would again contribute to the cost of work to protect their properties, and is also to ask English Heritage for help.
Suffolk Coastal's cabinet is being recommended on February 4 to do as much work to maintain the existing cliff defences as possible – but this is likely to cost £20,000 to £40,000 a year, and it doesn't have that sort of money available.
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The problems have arisen because Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused grant aid for a £1.5 million scheme involving Suffolk Coastal council, county council and Environment Agency.
Whitehall officials downgraded the proposed scheme to medium to low priority, meaning it could be many years before it is carried out.
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"We are facing tough choices – we were ready to invest £100,000 in the full scheme that would have provided a 50 year solution, but now we are having to consider committing this council to a potential additional £40,000 expenditure a year well into the future from our increasingly pressurised budget," said Andy Smith, deputy council leader and cabinet member for planning.
"The only sensible solution is for the Government to take a fresh look at its funding of coastal defence and agree to find the money for long-term answers rather than leaving it to our council tax payers to paper over the cracks."
Government needed to increase funding of sea defences to take full account of the urgent demands the changing climate was making, and the priority scoring scheme must include recognition of the urgency of the work needed on a project, as it did until recently.
"At next month's cabinet meeting we will be considering what action we can or should take," said Mr Smith.
"The stark facts appear to be that if nothing is done then the existing defences could fail within two years and within a further two years the Martello Tower and the other properties at East Lane could be lost.
"I am confident the cabinet will agree to take some positive, if limited action, but because of the loss of Government funding it can only be stop-gap measures."
Protection of the point at East Lane, along with Bawdsey Manor, is fundamental to the protection of the whole coast in the area, including the Deben mouth and the Felixstowe north frontage.
Last September urgent maintenance of defences in front of clifftop properties were carried out but is now showing signs of wear and tear after the recent storms and high tides.