Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cash cuts threaten Upper Thurne

Cuts in flood defence budgets could leave some of Britain's most historic pike fisheries under threat from the sea.

The Environment Agency Anglian (Eastern) Regional Flood Defence Committee has just been told its budget for next year will be £33m - £5.2m less than last year.

The shortfall means work on building up beaches between Eccles and Winterton, on the north-east Norfolk coast, will not go ahead.

Just low cliff or a narrow strip of sand and shingle is all that prevents the sea from encroaching into Horsey Mere and the Upper Thurne.

The Thurne system occupies a unique place in predator fishing history, having produced three record pike, all of them over 40lbs.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: "The Environment Agency has told me that not recharging the beaches would cause a significant threat to the Broads.

"To hear that this is happening is just unbelievable, absolutely scandalous. You can draw comparison to New Orleans, where the scandal came after the event when it emerged the US government hadn't done what they should have done to protect the defences."

Malcolm Kerby, from the Norfolk-based Coastal Concern Action Group, added: "This decision will put villages like Hickling, Waxham and Sea Palling under huge threat, not to ­ mention 6,000 hectares of the Broads.

"It is another example of Defra's total inability to manage the coastline. By massively underfunding flood defence works they are putting thousands of homes at risk."

Defra said: "There is not a limitless pot of money for funding flood risk management."