No surrender to the waves
PUBLISHED: 10:03 07 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 July 2010
THERE will be no surrender in the fight against proposals that would abandon "vast acreage" of the Norfolk broads to the sea.
That was the pledge last night from Norfolk County Hall, which said it would battle to win government support and funding to "hold the line" of current coastal defences.
THERE will be no surrender in the fight against proposals that would abandon “vast acreage” of the Norfolk broads to the sea.
That was the pledge last night from Norfolk County Hall, which said it would battle to win government support and funding to “hold the line” of current coastal defences.
Communities have been left stunned since it emerged that Natural England, the government's conservation advisory body, is considering a proposal to let the sea engulf up to 25sq miles of Norfolk.
The controversial proposal is one of four being considered by Natural England, and would allow the sea to breach coastal defences between Horsey and Winterton, flooding low lying areas as far inland as Potter Heigham and Stalham, where new defences would be built.
If adopted, that would see the loss of hundreds of homes, thousands of acres of farmland and internationally important wildlife reserves including Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere.
The three other options are to do nothing to hold back the sea, maintain the line of current sea defences, or move them slightly inland.
Last night Ian Monson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for the environment and waste, said the authority would press the case that the land is worth defending on social, economic and environmental grounds.
Concern about the fate of the region's coastline has risen since details of the plans emerged last month.
Ironically, further along the coast The Wash Tidal Barrier Corporation is bidding to build a new sea defence barrier between Hunstanton and Skegness in a move to protect people from the growing threat of storm surges engulfing the area.
The firm, which is launching its bid for a self-financing barrier on April 28, said with sea levels rising by 2mm a year it is only a matter of time before the current defences are overwhelmed.
And in north Suffolk volunteers are resorting to rebuilding flood barriers to stem a breach of the Blyth Estuary near Southwold after the Environment Agency said it would not fund long-term defences.
It was reported last week how environment secretary Hilary Benn warned that stark choices will need to be made about investment in the defence of coastlines, which could see some coastal areas surrendered to Mother Nature.
Yet last night Ian Monson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for the environment and waste, said the authority had “absolutely no intention” of supporting a proposal to surrender large areas of land to the sea and would lobby government to hold the line of existing sea defences.
“We feel we have got to support the people of Norfolk,” he said. “We don't want to see the water coming in. Holding the line is basically what we support.
“Clearly there is a cost to that in the longer term, but what we are saying is that can all be determined in the future - the policy of holding the line is for the next 20, 30 and 50 years.
“We hope to be able to persuade future governments to realise that the social and economic of having that area flood, or any part of Britain, is far more important than they are actually giving credit for at the moment.
“Clearly it would be difficult to know where the money is coming from if we were facing a catastrophe tomorrow. But at the moment the defences are safe - that is the point. It's not something that's going to happen tomorrow.
“We can endlessly speculate about what might or might not be necessary in 30, 50 or 100 years time,” Mr Monson added. “What is certain is that there will be no rush to abandon vast acreages of the Broads or the people who live there. These parts of Norfolk are as important to the county and its economy as they are to the wildlife and the natural environment.”
Eric Lindo, chairman of the Stalham and Happing Partnership, which works to regenerate a large area of north-east Norfolk welcomed county hall's stance.
“That's great news,” he said. “Some sanity has been brought back to the situation on behalf of Norfolk people. It's the sheer shock and surprise that's taken everybody's breath away, and the unfeeling response from an environment secretary whose own ancestral home is protected by a sea wall.
He said the government had frittered its funds on “eye-catching egotistical projects” such as the Millennium Dome, Olympic Games and the Eurofighter at the expense of protecting the country's own shoreline.
A trio of public meetings are to be held in the next fortnight to allow residents the chance to debate the issue.
Mr Lindo said the public needed to put pressure on all politicians of all levels to raise spending on flood defences.
“The first step is the public meetings so that we can co-ordinate what's happening,” he added. “We need to start making a nuisance of ourselves and it's up to us to tell our elected representatives what we want our money spent on.”
The 7.30pm meetings will be held at St Mary's Church in Hickling on April 8; Potter Heigham village hall on April 9; and Sea Palling village hall on April 15.