Year delay for flood defences

LOW-lying homes and businesses at Felixstowe will have to face at least one more winter at risk from the waves because desperately-needed new sea defences have been delayed a year.

LOW-lying homes and businesses at Felixstowe will have to face at least one more winter at risk from the waves because desperately-needed new sea defences have been delayed a year.

It also means work on a £25 million seafront regeneration project will have to wait - as the maritime park and 158 new homes cannot go ahead unless the £5m defences are built.

Traders and attractions were looking ahead to a summer of disruption while the 19 rock groynes were built between the War Memorial and Landguard to replace 50 decaying concrete breakwaters, which experts say may only last a couple more winters.

There have been no major problems so far this winter, but it will mean an anxious time for the occupants of 1,616 homes, as well as the port, and many businesses and tourist attractions, which could be inundated if floods struck.

Suffolk Coastal has been pressing government for funding towards the scheme but has been left “very disappointed” it has not been given a priority status.

Council leader Ray Herring said: “The proposed joint coast protection work with the Environment Agency will not attract government funding in 2006/07 although this scheme continues to have a high national priority score which bodes well for funding in 2007/08.”

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The council now has to present a case to government to persuade officials of the necessity for the work.

Meanwhile, a hold will be put on the south seafront scheme with the 17-acre site set to stay derelict for at least a further year.

Campaigner Trevor Lockwood suggested part of the area be used for temporary pay-and-display car parking and the profit used to create a maritime park now - featuring items such as a mobile skatepark, five-a-side pitch, basketball hoop, or open area for plays or concerts.

He said: “It would be a good test before we spend lots of money.

“Let us use the land now - to do so will cost nothing, and it will help to regenerate a part of Felixstowe seafront that the council has allowed to fall into decay for 20 years.”

Mr Herring said it was very unlikely taxpayers would wish to risk incurring costs for alternative use just for the immediate short term but he would be willing to discuss the possibilities if campaigners could draw up a business plan, funding proposals and address health and safety issues.

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