Body blow as £3.9m Norfolk sea defence scheme is abandoned

Scratby. Photo: Mike Page.

Scratby. Photo: Mike Page. - Credit: Archant

Vulnerable homes are 'back to square one' after a £3.9m scheme to shore up sea defences on the east coast was thrown out.

Long talked-of plans to extend the Scratby rock berm from Caister sea wall to Little Scratby have been scrapped after the scheme was deemed too expensive.

Instead, a cheaper alternative has been proposed and this week sent to the Environment Agency (EA) for approval.

The scaled-back scheme is for gabions – metal cages filled with rocks – to be installed along the dunes at a cost of just over £500,000.

Chris Hogg, chairman of Scratby and California Environment Group (SCEG), admitted it would be 'an inferior' defence compared with 42,000 tonnes of granite rock from Scandinavia – but believed it would still do the job.

A spokesman for the EA said: 'Generally speaking, on erosive shorelines where wave attack is prevalent, rock armourstone would be preferable to a gabion basket defence.'

EA officers granted techinical approval for the extension of the rock berm in 2011, later pledging to pay towards it through a partnership funding system.

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The sought-after extension would have protected between 100 and 200 homes along the coast.

Under partnership funding, the borough council and residents of Scratby knew they would have to pay a significant amount towards the work but, two years on, have come to the conclusion it will cost them too much.

Bernard Harris, the borough council's coastal manager – who has his work cut out for him fighting the corner for not only Scratby but Hopton, Hemsby and all the others threatened by erosion – said: 'The cost was just too excessive. It would have been borne by the local authority and, as it is partnership funding, by the residents. We have looked at funding it but we're talking about a shortfall of more than £3m.'

It is not yet known how much the EA might pay towards the work.

When asked how funding was decided, a spokesman for the agency said: 'We will base our investment decisions on assessments of flood risk and legal obligations.

'We will only invest in further plans, actions or projects where there is a sound and justified reason for doing so.

'We need good quality planning to ensure the right solutions go forward for further appraisal and funding.'

Mr Hogg praised Mr Harris and the borough council for supporting Scratby 'regardless of which party was in power'.

'The borough council has not given up on us,' he said. 'We will keep pushing but, to be honest, our hands are tied.

'It seems that when it comes to Norfolk, it doesn't get the same funding as others.'

Do you have coastal erosion concerns? Call Lauren Rogers on 01493 847961 or email lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk