Summit praises community campaign to maintain West Norfolk coastal flood defences

Devastation caused by the flood at Snettisham beach. ENGANL00120130912090019
Devastation caused by the flood at Snettisham beach. ENGANL00120130912090019
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An initiative to protect vital flood defences on the West Norfolk coast has raised enough money to continue the work even when public investment ends, a meeting has heard.

Recharging the shingle banks which protect homes and businesses on the coast between Heacham and Wolferton Creek costs up to £180,000 a year.

But, although the scheme won’t get any public money at all from April, a new community interest company (CIC) has already collected the cash needed to continue the work from local people.

And political and business leaders have been praised for their work on the project.

The East Wash Coastal Management CIC was set up following the tidal surge which hit the borough in December 2013.

It collects contributions from local residents and businesses to go towards the cost of maintaining the defences, which will not get any public money at all when the new financial year begins in April.

The scheme was put forward as one way in which local communties, councils and other public bodies can work together to protect communites from flooding during a summit in Downham on Friday.

Brian Long, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “The CIC has collected enough contributions so they can fund the programme going forward.”

He also revealed the programme was going to receive a “sizeable” funding contribution from Anglian Water, though the exact amount was not confirmed.

He went on: “We were looking at a very different model of how we could maintain the defences in that location and, when it came to the crunch, the business people and landowners have really come good.

“But that only worked because of the that has gone on between the partner agencies at borough, county and Environment Agency.”

Mr Long also paid tribute to the head of the CIC, Mike McDonnell of McDonnell’s Caravans for his dedication to the cause, which he said may even have been to the detriment of his own business.

But he added: “He knows that if he doesn’t get it right they will all suffer badly.”

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham also reminded the meeting of the extent of the damage to the defences, which he described as being “smashed”, in places like Snettisham and Brancaster.

And he praised Mr Long’s contribution, adding: “It’s a really good example of a local councillor showing leadership. It wouldn’t have happened without that.”