Save our Suffolk estuary
A community-led campaign to defend the local economy of the Alde and Ore Estuary
The issue of how to defend coastal and estuarial economies from flooding is very topical for many communities and yet the challenges facing East Anglia are almost unique given our specific geography and rural economic landscape. Efforts on the Blyth, Deben and Alde & Ore estuaries are some of the most innovative in the UK, borne out of needing to find their own solutions for the unique soft soil structure of their river beds and marshes. East Anglia has been on continual flood alert for centuries and there is an unbroken chain of stewardship for the flood defences. No generation can escape its responsibility to keep the vigil alive, especially when communities can see coastal erosion, the breaching of defences, flooding marshes and homes: an extensive Alde and Ore Futures consultation in 2010 shouted a unanimous agreement that a new programme of action was needed. Over the past decade, it has become clear that central government funding for flood defences is prioritised for areas of dense population and/or heavy industry. This leaves Suffolk with only a very modest slice of any national funding opportunities. It falls to the local community to decide whether it wants to embark on the maintenance and interventions needed to survive the devastating impact of major surge tides and flooding such as the region saw in 1953. This challenge has been firmly embraced by a community-led group of stakeholders who formed the Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership in 2012, constituted to assess what was needed if the Estuary was to withstand a 1-in-200-year tidal surge. After a long period of consultation, research and modelling, all the Partnership stakeholders and advisors signed up to a Final Estuary Plan in 2016 which highlighted the ten priority flood cells where flood defences are most needed. The identified area affects more than 1,400 homes and includes some of Suffolk’s 16 | SUFFOLK DIRECTOR WINTER 2017/18
most iconic tourism sites such as Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh High Street, which is sandwiched directly between the estuary and the sea.
Who is involved? The Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership is made up of 12 voting members comprised of local Parish Councils, representatives from residents, landowners and businesses, and advisors from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council and the Internal Drainage Board (IDB), who will carry most of the required works over the next seven years. Given the detailed task in hand, businesses across the area are involved in many different capacities, and range from professional services which include architects Wincer Kievenaar and Charles Curry-Hyde, land agents Savills and Gotelee Solicitors, through to TA Hotel Collection who are providing office resources.
What will it cost, and how will the funds be raised? The estimated cost of the flood defence works is £12m and of which government funding may be in the region of £2m. Local landowners have committed to find £5m, leaving a community fundraising challenge of £5m. A separate charitable organisation has been established to fundraise for the flood defences, called the Alde and Ore Estuary Trust, chaired by Guy Heald. Over the next five years, The Trust aims to reach out to all those who live, work or play in the estuary: through parish magazines to residents (estimated at over 7,000 people), circa 500,000 visitors who come to the area each year, crowdfunding through social media and approaches to local businesses. The Trust is also actively preparing bids to all available opportunities such as environmental charities, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the Lottery-funded Heritage Landscape Partnership.
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