West Norfolk flood defences ‘at risk’ without new company, councillor warns

Hunstanton Cliffs ANL-140528-185620009
Hunstanton Cliffs ANL-140528-185620009
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Opponents of plans to fund future flood relief work along the West Norfolk coast are putting the area’s defences at risk, council chiefs have claimed.

A new management strategy for the stretch of the coast between Wolferton and Hunstanton was approved by borough councillors at a meeting on Thursday, despite opposition from some of the area’s political representatives.

Although around £1.5 million of government money has been allocated towards the ongoing maintenance of defences in the area, around £3.5 million more still needs to be raised locally.

West Norfolk Council has been working with business leaders in the area to establish a community interest company to co-ordinate fundraising for future works.

But Hunstanton councillor Richard Bird argued the plan was flawed, as there was no way to compel people in the affected areas to pay.

He said there was also no public accountability, no knowledge of the potential contributors and no understanding of new tax rules affecting the sector, which have just been introduced.

He said: “In my opinion, the way forward is to continue with a charitable company, similar to Alive Leisure, on an interim basis until the best type of compnay that could take advantage of the new tax rules is established.”

He also called for legal powers to enforce payment from people in affected areas and pointed out the current proposal had been opposed by Norfolk County Council, where opposition was led by former borough leader John Dobson.

But deputy leader Brian Long said no other alternatives to the council’s proposals had been put forward.

He said: “We have a proposal to endorse a way of moving forward and I would recommend everyone supports it and anyone who doesn’t is jeopardising the potential for works to be done next winter.

“I want to see homes and businesses protected.”

He said forcing people to pay would require new national legislation, as the Environment Agency had advised the council it could not rely on current laws to secure payment.