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Flood proposal idea
Mon 17 Mar 2014

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Following on from the tidal surge at Wells on the 5th December 2013 and with growing concerns from local businesses and residents along the quay that extreme events may become more frequent, WHC took the initiative to set-up a meeting with the Environment Agency (EA), Norman Lamb MP and NNDC to discuss an idea that was first proposed in 2009. County Councillor Marie Strong and Wells Town Council were also invited but were unable to attend.

In previous surge events, as many residents would remember, the banks broke and water on the quay dropped suddenly as the seas flooded low-lying land to the West which had earlier been reclaimed from the sea. A similar thing happened in December at Blakeney when the embankment surrounding the land between Blakeney and Cley was breached in many places. This had a dramatic effect on the tide level within Blakeney Harbour at a critical moment (1.5 hrs before HW). The tide level visibly dropped during the last hour before HW, after the bank breached, acting as a huge ‘relief valve’ for the harbour.

The Wells barrier worked well and prevented water entering Freeman Street, however this raised the level of water east of the barrier along the quay and East End (however at the meeting the EA did not agree that this would have had any effect on the flooding at the quayside). Had there been other places for the tidal surge to go, some of the impact in the Town might have been avoided.

The proposal suggested at the meeting was for a realigning or lowering of the existing East Bank (north point bank) or the incorporation of a sluice gate to allow the tide to move up the valley to the East as it did prior to the banks being built and the land being reclaimed by Holkham in the 1700/1800s. An alternative would be to lower the existing East bank to allow the tide to overtop at a pre-determined level i.e. when the water reached a certain point across the quayside. It would be essential to build a new shorter flood defence along the East side of Wells running North-South to protect the town.

Amazingly, the EA currently consider that the tidal surge experienced on 5th December is considered to be a 1 in 500 year event at Wells, which is surprising given that floods occurred in 53, 78 and 2013. They also confirmed that their evidence of the 5th December suggests only 23 properties were affected. In view of this the EA has to weigh up the costs of any initiative versus the benefits, but given the current assumptions it may not be the best use of funding. The Harbour Commissioners are of the same opinion as many of the business owners on the front and locals that in the future we are likely to see more flooding or surge tides as from records of previous years shows that Wells get more surges than has been experienced in the past.

The point was pressed home by WHC that there is a great deal of investment currently being undertaken on the quayside buildings which is a great benefit to the town and these businesses want some reassurance on the protection of their properties in the future. Following on from this, the EA have promised Norman Lamb and WHC that they will calculate a cost benefit of the proposal and report back.

We will update the local community once we have further information.

The picture below show two approximate positions of a possible new bank North-South to east of Wells, joining high land. The land to the East could be used to allow more room for any future surge tides, to alleviate pressure on the Quay. All this land was formerly part of the natural harbour as can be seen from the routes of old creeks in the fields.

Two approximate positions of a possible new bank North-South to east of Wells, joining high land.  ]
Two approximate positions of a possible new bank North-South to east of Wells, joining high land. ]

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