Blyth Estuary Group Report to Walberswick Annual Parish Meeting
By Richard Steward
The Blyth Estuary Group was formed in 2006 by Blyth landowners, Parish and District Councillors, and Southwold Harbour Users. Its aims are to protect the estuary and harbour and to oppose the abandonment of our defences by the Environment Agency. We have been unable to stop the EA's abandonment but in 2009, with the help of Walberswick Parish Council, we were granted planning permission to raise and maintain the estuary walls ourselves. The protection of these walls is essential for the future of the harbour. The loss of Reydon Marsh wall, for example, would double the tidal flow in the estuary and destroy the harbour. We estimate that it would cost between £1 and £2 million to protect the estuary for the next 50years.
The Government's coastal abandonment policy is outlined in Lord Deben's 2013 Climate Change Committee paper; this gives EA and Local Authorities a target of realigning 10% of UK coast by 2030 and 15% by 2060. The share for Suffolk is 27% by 2030. To achieve this target the Government increased the defence benefit cost ratio from 1:1 to 8:1. An example of this target in action was the cessation in 1995 of dredging in the Somerset Levels.
The Government's policy is a response to the UN's IPCC 1990 climate change prediction of accelerating sea level rise. However, 24 years later there is still no discernable evidence of acceleration in either the tide gauge data or satellite data.
By 2019 the EA will have abandoned all the walls upstream of the Bailey bridge and spent £5 million moving Tinkers Marsh and the Hen Reedbeds Natura Habitat to Snape, which incidentally, flooded in the last storm surge. By 2029 the EA will have abandoned all the walls downstream of the Bailey bridge and spent a further £6 million building unnecessary and unwanted secondary defences to protect property from the abandonment of our primary defences.
The Government seems more than happy spending £7.5 billion a year subsidising inefficient bird killing North Sea windmills but not happy spending a few million looking after our Suffolk estuary walls.
The 5th Dec 2013 Storm Surge measured by the EA's Southwold Tide Gauge was 0.6m less than the great storm surge of 1953. Last year, of the three marshes breached, Robinsons was repaired in four days by the EA with a floating digger, Tinkers was sealed using an innovative plastic piling system and rebuilt by Natural England. Reydon was repaired by the landowner.
Sadly this year we lost our Vice Chairman and Walberswick Parish Councillor David Webb. We hope that the new Parish Council, when ready, will provide a new representative.
The Group welcomes James Darkins, Chairman of the Common Lands Charity who joined us earlier this year. The Charity owns Robinson's Marsh and James has taken a keen interest in the maintenance of the walls.
Later this year, with the help of Suffolk County Council, we will be assessing the results of four runs of the EA's estuary model. The model runs have been requested by us to determine the wall heights needed to protect the estuary for the next fifty years.
Following this assessment the group will hold consultation meetings in Southwold and Walberswick to review the options for the future of the estuary.