West Norfolk coastal flood defence works ‘could cost £8 million’, councillor warns

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Up to £8 million of additional investment will be needed to maintain sea defences along a stretch of West Norfolk’s coast, a councillor has warned.

Concerns were raised about the work being done to protect homes and businesses along the coastline between South Hunstanton and Wolferton Creek during West Norfolk Council’s meeting on Thursday.

But council leaders have defended the work that is already being undertaken to protect the area.

Engineers have been in the area in recent weeks to complete an annual beach recycling project to rebuild the shingle banks that protect the coastline.

An East Wash community interest company (CIC) has now been formed to lead efforts to raise the money needed to continue that work in future years.

And both Environment Agency officials and politicians have praised the efforts of the CIC as a potentially pioneering solution.

But Richard Bird, an independent councillor for the Hunstanton ward, told the meeting the scheme was not addressing the future need to recharge the beach to repair damage caused by erosion.

He said: “It has various price tags varying from £1 million to £8 million. What, if any arrangments, are beingmade for that money to be collected?”

Environment portfolio holder Brian Long said he was “absolutely aware” of the need to look at the issue and discussions were already taking place.

But he maintained that the work being led by the CIC was making a critical contribution.

He said: “Everyone knows the situation thus far has been to maintain defusing existing material.

“We have a scheme that was deemed not to be appropriate that is delivering and seeing work being done to maintain those defences.

“Money is already raised to do that next year and the best endeavours of those involved would see about five years’ material on current estimates.

“That can change, and change very rapidly, if far more material arrives due to tidal forces.”

But Mr Bird replied: “I’m not sure the answer was there.”

The latest recycling work was financed by £50,000 contributions.

And Mr Long’s report to the meeting said the CIC had already raised £134,000 from local businesses towards the cost of future maintenance.

But Mr Bird has said he is concerned about what he sess as a lack of clarity about the company.

He also points out there is currently no legal requirement for contributions to be made to the work.

And, although Whitehall officials are said to be watching the progress of the CIC closely, he argues that central government need to do more to help resolve the problem.

But Mr Long said: “There seems a good understanding that money is needed to maintain this important work.”

Caravan park owners and landowners are already contributing, while beach hut owners are also being asked to take part.