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Sea flooding

PUBLISHED: 15:13 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:52 03 July 2010

THE consequences of surrendering Potter Heigham and other areas of the Broads to the sea would be absolutely devastating with the loss of businesses, tourist trade, diverse natural habitats and up to 2,000 homes, a flood warden has warned.

THE consequences of surrendering Potter Heigham and other areas of the Broads to the sea would be absolutely devastating with the loss of businesses, tourist trade, diverse natural habitats and up to 2,000 homes, a flood warden has warned.

John Holland, who supervises the flood response in the pretty village, revealed there were a number of listed buildings among more than 350 threatened properties in his village which, if lost as part of Natural England's plan to allow the Broads to be flooded, would not just be a blow for the homeowners but for Potter Heigham because the homes had architectural and historical value.

He said: “We cannot afford to do nothing because at the moment the difficulty is if we do nothing the homeowners will have lost the value of their houses.

“Many of the people in Norfolk are retired and all their money is in the property they own, but cash-wise they are poor. If their property is worth nothing and they lose the value of their home, then they have lost their future.”

His comments came the day after 100 Sea Palling residents packed into their village hall last Tuesday to vent their own anger at the flooding plans at a meeting with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

Angry Stalham residents have also started a petition calling on the Environment Agency to honour its pledge to “hold the line,” meaning sea defences would be maintained for the next 50 years.

Retired postmaster Mr Holland attacked the plans to surrender a 16,000 acre area on economic grounds, believing the potential financial losses of business and tourist income would outweigh the expenditure on shoring up the sea wall which

was built following the 1953 floods between Eccles and Winterton to protect an area known as the Thurne Catchment.

This was, he said, without considering the “social justice” element of compensating homeowners for the loss of their properties, which he was pushing for to mitigate the fall in house values caused by the risk of flooding.

Mr Holland's solution was for the local authorities to set aside money out of each household's council tax to contribute to maintaining the defences.

He said: “If a small amount of money for every household was ring-fenced each year think about how much money we would have to spend on the defences.”

Potter Heigham has three grade one listed buildings and three grad two, and it is estimated the church dates back to the 11th century.

As a flood warden he is responsible for supervising any evacuation in the event of flooding and he has volunteers in each of the village's streets ready to co-ordinate the response.

The procedure is that he receives a warning from the Environment Agency about potential flooding and then checks the wind direction and the height of the River Yare tide at Potter Heigham bridge before making a decision on whether or not to evacuate.

The emergency plan nearly came into action during the November tidal surge, but no evacuation was needed as the only area flooded was around the vicinity of Lathams near the bridge.

But Mr Holland offered hope for worried villagers by stating there had been no major flooding in Potter Heigham over the last 100 years with the main threat coming from encroachment by the sea, rather than flooding from the river.

He said: “It is important people do not worry.”

An online petition to save the broads is among the fastest-growing on prime minister Gordon Brown's 10 Downing Street website. More than 1,100 people have signed up to calls from the Pike Anglers Club for sea defences to be maintained. It claims some of Britain's finest pike fisheries are under threat from natural England's proposals.

The petition can be viewed at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/savethebroads/

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