Fears raised over West Norfolk flood defences

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West Norfolk’s flood defences are “light years” behind those on the continent and more needs to be done to fill a “black hole” in funding them, council chiefs have been warned.

The claims follow the completion of annual maintenance work on the borough’s coastal defences and amid controversy about local contributions to the work.

But senior officials have insisted that significant progress is being made to secure protection for the future.

Last month, contractors carried out the annual beach recycling work to rebuild the defence banks that protect communities between Hunstanton and Wolferton.

A full recharge project, where material is brought into the area from elsewhere, is currently expected to be needed in around six years’ time.

But, speaking at Thursday’s full council meeting, Hunstanton representative Richard Bird suggested the current work was insufficient.

He told the meeting he had viewed modern flood defences in the Netherlands and said: “I can see we’re light years behind.”

However, the claim was rejected by environment portfolio holder Ian Devereux, who said: “The current strategy we’re adopting retains the best consultants from Holland to advise us on our way.”

Earlier this year, several coastal parish councils – Hunstanton, Heacham, Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham – were asked by the borough council to make a financial contribution towards the cost of maintaining the defences.

Mr Bird said that idea had been “completely rejected”, asking: “What plans are there to find funding for the black hole when the recharge has to happen?”

Mr Devereux said discussions were continuing with the Environment Agency and acknowledged there were “differences of opinion” on the financial question.

But he referred back to the £300,000 of funding that was recently provided by a regional flood risk committee as proof the issue was being resolved.

He also praised the work of the East Wash community interest company, which is led by businessman Mike McDonnell, to raise what he described as a “healthy surplus” for future work.

He said: “Rather than a black hole, there are some very positive elements for the future but we’re always mindful more money would come in very useful.”