21 January 2000

Damaged defences put Norfolk coast under flood threat

By David Green

THE Environment Agency has discovered that thousands of acres of farmland are under threat after an inspection of sea defences on the Norfolk coast revealed serious storm damage.

A spokesman for the agency said: "There are significant lengths where the base of the sea wall has been exposed to such an extent that the defences are in an unstable condition."

A breach in the wall could lead to the flooding of thousands of acres of low-lying arable land and grassland and cause salt water contamination of the ecologically-important Broads waterways.

One point where emergency work is being carried out is at Waxham where the storms caused erosion of the beach and clay foreshore. The Environment Agency now expects to spend £1.3m on repairs.

About 20,000t of rock are being imported from Norway to supplement rocks used in an early phase of a nearby scheme involving the construction of offshore reefs.

Keith Watson, of Poplar Farm, Horsey, who has 68ha (170 acres) of arable and grassland behind the Waxham flood defences, said the deterioration of the sea walls had been caused mainly by the destruction of nearby groynes and by increased erosion as a result of the artificial reefs built just to the north.

But there were long-term plans to construct reefs at Waxham and elsewhere along the vulnerable coastline, as far south as Winterton.

"Farmers around here think this will be the final answer but in the short term we are glad to see the work under way to bolster the existing defences," he added. &#42