Yarmouth river flood defences to be bolstered in �1m scheme

SOME of Great Yarmouth’s most vulnerable riverside communities are having their defences unexpectedly bolstered by a �1m scheme - thanks to an underspend elsewhere in the country.

It means extra security for homes living with a flood threat lapping at their doorsteps and facing a string of winter high tides, several metres above predicted levels.

The scheme which starts on February 1 has been fast-tracked thanks to money that was allocated elsewhere in the country but not spent within a certain time scale and redistributed by central government.

In Yarmouth it means the Environment Agency can carry out work to one of the most vulnerable stretches of quayside - a 40m sweep from Asda to Vauxhall Bridge - several years earlier than it had hoped.

Richard Houghton, EA area flood risk manager, said engineers would be starting on the “significant” four month scheme on February 1, renewing ageing defences including piling.

Elsewhere the town is having to rely on a patchwork of make-do-and-mend solutions but in the long term should benefit from more fundamental repairs.

Mr Houghton said Yarmouth was able to draw down the spare cash because the project was all worked up and just waiting for money to lever it off the starting blocks.

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He said: “A lot of the defences date back to the 1950s and 1960s and have served their time. We have a long term plan for Great Yarmouth of routine maintenance work and a longer term plan looking at some more fundamental work to the defences.

“A lot of the work is patch repairs to cracks and that is on going as well as stripping out and putting in new.

“The bulk of that will be planned next year and maybe start the year after. A lot of the defences around the coast are in excellent condition but those in Great Yarmouth are not.”

The capital grant money, secured because the Yarmouth project was “ready to roll,” is paying for the most urgent section hugging the main town on the Yarmouth side.

The new scheme is part of a wider �150,000 effort to protect 3600 homes, businesses and roads, making repairs and finding out what needs to be done for the future.

A mix of climate change and rising sea levels as well as the poor state of the defences has made Yarmouth an EA priority - the 2007 near-miss which saw homes evacuated and national media circling to capture the chaos, still serving as a warning.

A report states: “These defences are not in their optimum condition. The planned work will help to return the Great Yarmouth defences to their design standards and ensure that the walls are in a suitable condition for flood protection.

“We are also doing some ground investigation works along the flood wall. This will help us plan the future works that are required in the long term on the walls. These works will take place in Southtown, Lime Kiln Wharf and Southgates Road.

“We are repairing approximately eight flood defence walls around Gorleston, Southtown and Cobholm. The work mainly consists of concrete repairs such as cracks in the walls or damage caused by shipping collisions.

“In places this damage has lowered the crest height of the wall. The work will reinstate the original design heights and provide a consistent level for each wall.”

The locations where most people and homes are at risk are the ones that have been prioritised under the scheme, although other places throughout the harbour, on the Bure and around Great Yarmouth need repairing too.