Surge floods prompt new erosion fears

Byline: (North Norfolk News, 14 November 2007)

Seaside homes, businesses and tourist attractions across north Norfolk were left battered and bruised by the worst storm surge for 50 years.

And, as the big clear up continues after the wave and flood damage, coastal campaigners say it shows exactly why the government cannot abandon sea defences.

Friday’s towering, wind-driven seas left a trail of damage in their wake – smashing down walls of houses at Walcott, splintering decking on Cromer pier, and reducing beach huts to match wood.

Coastal defences were given a bloody nose, but escaped the knock out punch that many people feared as authorities prepared for the worst flooding since 1953.

Campaigners are using the dramatic day to renew calls for government spending on sea defences, and their will be top of the agenda when the Coastal Concern Action Group heads to London on November 21 to meet environment minister Phil Woollas.

Group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said: “The government will be crowing about wonderfully things worked simply because Yarmouth got away with it.

“But we only missed a 1953 disaster because the weather let us off. The surge was a little lower than expected and if the wind had shifted a few degrees we would have been in serious trouble.

“The government needs to latch on the fact that if they if there is erosion you will get flooding on a scale you cannot imagine.”

Officials are still assessing the full extend and cost of the storm damage along the north Norfolk coast.

The district council this week said it was “extensive”, and that it was seeking to make a claim for compensation under the government’s Bellwin scheme – last used to recover £100,000 worth of costs for damage done in the 1996 storms.

Replacing damaged promenade handrails alone is likely to cost £20,000, while council-owned beach chalets are set to cost more than £40,000 to mend.

Clean up work was taking place this week on damaged and debris-strewn promenades at Cromer, Sheringham and Overstrand in a bid to get them open as soon as possible.

Inspections of steel are taking place under Cromer pier, where waves have damaged the floor of the Pavilion Theatre

At Walcott where 20 homes were flooded as waves came over the seawalls, families have found accommodation with friends or family. Trading standards officers this week visited the village, warning people against rogue traders offering repairs, and yesterday afternoon a public meeting was due to assess the best way to clear up debris.

Wildlife experts were also this week assessing the damage to nature reserves at Cley and Salthouse marshes which were flooded as waves came over shingle banks, left to lower under new coastal management techniques – with improved drainage designed to help the saltwater clear more quickly working well under its first real test.