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Update on flood proposal idea
Fri 4 Apr 2014

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Wells Harbour Commissioners recently reported on a meeting which was held with the Environment Agency (EA), Norman Lamb MP and NNDC to discuss a flood proposal idea that was first raised in 2009 and promised to update the local community once further information was received.

The tidal surge at Wells on the 5th December 2013 was the worst in its history and with growing concerns from local businesses and residents along the quay that extreme events may become more frequent businesses approached Wells Harbour Commissioners (WHC) wanting some reassurance on the protection of their properties in the future particularly given the recent investment being undertaken on quayside buildings that are a huge benefit to the town.

Coastal floods are most clearly linked to climate change as rising temperatures mean rising seas. In the English Channel between England and France, sea levels have already risen by 12 centimetres since the early 20th century, and up to 16 centimetres more is expected by 2030. Higher seas bring bigger storm surges.

The initiative proposed by WHC is for a managed retreat which would involve 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 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.

The EA have undertaken a high level assessment of the likely costs of the potential East Bank realignment scheme and also how much government funding might be available should the scheme go ahead and their indicative cost is £3 million. With the EA assumptions of only 24 properties at risk they input this data into the ‘Partnership Funding Calculator’ which yielded a result of around 6%. This means only £160K of Government funds would be forthcoming for such a scheme, clearly meaning significant private contributions would be required to fund the total cost. The EA suggest that individual property protection measures for quayside properties is a more viable alternative.

Harbour Master Robert Smith said “If a managed retreat system cannot work then we need to see what else can be done as we cannot just sit back and do nothing. Wells Harbour Commissioners are looking at their own measures to improve flood protection for the Harbour Office and are considering a scheme to increase the height of the sea wall around the office which was originally constructed to the height of the 1953 floods and I urge all other owners of quayside properties to consider improving their own flood measures.”

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