Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Latest updates

Blakeney Freshmarsh
Last Friday we issued a statement about our ongoing response to the tidal surge event of the 5th December 2013. If you haven’t seen it, please see below.

Today we are pleased that the Environment Agency have diggers on site at the Blakeney end of the Freshes sea wall. We have been pressing the Environment Agency to clear bank material that has collapsed in the area of the two tidal sluices that drain the Freshes, enabling them to evacuate water quickly should the Freshes become inundated again. We are also pleased that the Agency are investigating the southern sluice to establish whether the flow through this could be increased. We have also asked the Agency to manipulate the amount of water going through the Cley sluice to aid flushing of the marshes to reduce the salinity levels within the system. This means that some of the flow that would usually go straight through the main sluice under Cley Road is being diverted through the Freshes.

You may also notice that the affected footpaths are formally closed and chestnut paling has been erected by the Environment Agency to highlight that the areas are not safe to walk on.

We are undertaking weekly salinity measurements to help us understand the ongoing impact and we are pleased that the flushing is working and the salt content of the ditch network is reducing.

The Environment Agency are hosting a public drop-in session on Thursday 13th February from 2.30 to 7pm in Blakeney Scout Hut. This is a good opportunity for you to feed in your views and concerns. We are in regular contact with the Environment Agency and Natural Engand and will continue to provide updates

Morston Bridges
One of the issues that arose as a result of the tidal surge was that a 20-metre long bridge at Morston Quay was swept away. The bridge is one of four that enable access to the landing stages, pontoons and marsh north of the lower quay.

We do have a project to replace this bridge known as Bridge 2 and a second sizeable bridge to the north, known as Bridge 4. We have issued a letter of intent to a contractor and are waiting for the final consents to come back from the various organisations e.g. Natural England, North Norfolk District Council planning and Marine Management Organisation. We will then fully appoint the contractor with works due to start on site at the end of February and a 12-15 week construction window.

We have asked the contractor to prioritise Bridge 2 and in the next few days we will be receiving the schedule of works that we can share with you next week.

We are aware of concern locally about the missing bridge and we have been exploring various options for a temporary structure. We met with the original bridge stakeholder group and the feedback was that a temporary structure needed to be in place at the latest by the 1st of April. We need to ensure any temporary option is safe for all users and is able to cope with the conditions and the environment it would sit in. We cannot guarantee the condition of the remaining piles and safety for the public, which is why we are looking at alternatives.

The National Trust has suffered a significant amount of damage across the coast and we have challenges with funding. We have met with a loss adjustor and are waiting for the report of whether there could be an insurance claim associated with the bridges that we hope to receive by the end of the week.

We would like to reassure all those with an interest that we are exploring a range of options and that we should hopefully be able to provide a further update later this week or early next week.

- Victoria Egan (Countryside Manager)

National Trust statement: ongoing response to tidal surge event in December 2013
In December 2013 much of the east coast of the UK was subject to severe flooding following extremely high tidal surges. The North Norfolk Coast was among the many areas affected by these surges.

In North Norfolk, the National Trust cares for large areas of coastline, including Blakeney Point, Blakeney Fresh Marsh, Brancaster Beach and land adjacent to Brancaster West Marsh. All of these areas were severely flooded in December and work began immediately to plan a response that meets both local economic, environmental and ecological needs.

Flooding of freshwater marshes has presented the most complex issues after the sea defences were breached in several places, resulting in saltwater flooding.

Further high tides are predicted in the coming weeks and we are pleased that the Environment Agency has this week responded to requests to investigate the sluices that drain the Blakeney site with a view to getting them both working again. This will be vital in ensuring seawater drains from the freshwater marshes more efficiently, mitigating the impact for wildlife and future use of the marsh.

The National Trust is very clear in its position that in planning for the long-term future of these marshes, doing nothing is not an option. Blakeney and Brancaster marshes need the chance to respond to potential changes in conditions and we want to see options that outline what interventions are needed to allow these habitats to adapt and flourish.

We have called for a full and thorough appraisal of options and would like to see a plan that works in harmony with natural processes to deliver a sustainable solution in social, ecological and financial terms that ensures public benefits are fully recognised.

There are a number of organisations involved in planning the next steps for future of the North Norfolk coast and it is vital that we all, along with the local community and landowners, are able to work in partnership throughout this complex decision making process.

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