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New estuary plan is a key 'test case'

PUBLISHED: 12:06 18 September 2009 | UPDATED: 08:32 01 August 2010

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect a north Suffolk estuary are preparing to spend up to eight years repairing damaged river banks themselves now that plans for DIY flood defences have been given the green light.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect a north Suffolk estuary are preparing to spend up to eight years repairing damaged river banks themselves now that plans for DIY flood defences have been given the green light.

The Environment Agency announced in 2007 that it could no longer justify large-scale investment to repair the defences around the Blyth Estuary, near Southwold, in the face of predicted rising sea levels.

It proposed a strategy of managed retreat, which would see the existing walls protecting land around Southwold, Walberswick, Reydon and Blythburgh, maintained for a maximum of 20 years, but with some sections allowed to breach much sooner.

Now the Blyth Estuary Group, which has been campaigning against the Environment Agency's proposals, has been given the permission to take on the task and rebuild the mud walls themselves so that the flood defences will last for at least a few more decades.

The plans, which were approved by Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils on Wednesday, involve an 8km stretch of river banks right around the estuary.

Sue Allen, chairman of the Blyth Estuary Group, said that allowing landowners and locals to repair and maintain the river banks will help to secure the estuary for future generations.

She said: “This is a truly unique application. It is an innovative and nationally important test case, and an excellent example of Suffolk's communities working together.

“The Blyth Estuary Group is working towards the next 30 or 40 years. Each generation should be able to make its own decision about the future of the estuary and whether it is viable, which at the moment it is.”

The project, which could take between five and eight years to complete, will see all the river banks raised to 2.7m high to protect the surrounding area, including the A12 Lowestoft to Ipswich road, dozens of homes, Southwold harbour and acres of farmland and protected wildlife habitat.

An access track will be built across the marshes using waste soil from building sites so that clay from the marshes can then be used to bolster the defences.

The work will be carried out in four phases, starting with Tinkers and Delacroix Marshes near Walberswick and then moving round to Robinsons Marsh and Reydon Marshes to finish at the Southwold town marshes.

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