VIDEO: Shingle work continues as ‘pioneering’ West Norfolk flood defence scheme is praised

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Residents and traders on the West Norfolk coast are pioneers for future funding of coastal flood defence works, environmental officials say.

Political and business leaders met Environment Agency staff at Snettisham today to see progress on the annual project to restore shingle defence banks.

Snettisham beach maintenance work
Sir Henry Bellingham (right) and Mike McDonnell, chairman of the East wash coastal Management Community Interest Company (left) are shown the plans for the beach maintenance by Julie Foley of the Environmental Agency ANL-160318-122619001

Snettisham beach maintenance work Sir Henry Bellingham (right) and Mike McDonnell, chairman of the East wash coastal Management Community Interest Company (left) are shown the plans for the beach maintenance by Julie Foley of the Environmental Agency ANL-160318-122619001

But the head of the organisation which is leading efforts to secure continuing funding for the work has called for the costs to be shared more evenly across a wider area.

For the past two weeks, Environment Agency contractors have been working to rebuild the shingle banks which protect homes and businesses between Snettisham and Hunstanton.

Workers have been moving around 5,000 cubic metres of sand and shingle to re-inforce the defences in a process known as beach recycling.

The work has been taking place now, following recent spring tides, to repair damage caused during the winter and ahead of both the tourist and bird breeding seasons.

Snettisham beach maintenance work
Contractors dig into to rebuild the shingle banks ANL-160318-122630001

Snettisham beach maintenance work Contractors dig into to rebuild the shingle banks ANL-160318-122630001

The £150,000 project is the last to be wholly funded by government money, as a new financing initiative, led by a community interest company (CIC), takes effect.

The East Wash CIC has already raised sufficient funds to ensure the bank repairs can take place again next year.

And company chairman Mike McDonnell, of McDonnell Caravans, said there was an ongoing commitment from holiday caravan park owners to provide a £50 per plot contribution towards future works.

But he argued that more work was still needed to ensure the burden of funding the work is properly distributed.

He said: “There’s a large number of people in surrounding areas that benefit from the protection of this coast.

“I do feel it would be fair if the cost of this work is shared more evenly.”

He suggested that an additional levy could be collected by Norfolk County Council towards protecting the coastline right around the county.

But Julie Foley, the Environment Agency’s area manager, expressed the hope the defences could even be improved if more business partners come on board.

She revealed that Anglian Water has committed itself to investing £100,000 for the next two years in the defences.

And West Norfolk Council has also set up a sea defences funding group to consider other ways of financing the works.

Miss Foley said the importance of the shingle defences had been powerfully demonstrated during the 2013 tidal surge, when the banks were badly damaged.

She stressed that emergency repairs, such as those carried out following the surge, will still continue to be funded through the agency as and when they are needed.

But she praised the “pioneering” work of the CIC to lead the fundraising efforts for the annual repair project.

She added: “We’re very confident about the way forward so we can continue to provide a very strong defence for the area.”

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham also praised Mr McDonnell’s “dynamism” in leading the protect and revealed that the scheme was being watched closely by the government.

He said: “Elizabeth Truss (environment secretary) is really excited about this. She believes this is the example for other communiies around the country to follow.

“Putting the private sector in charge of annual works gives them a really key stake in how that work is done to make these amazing assets as safe as possible.”