Sea defence campaign
South Lincolnshire farmers whose land adjoins the Wash sea banks brought their case for improved sea defences into the election campaign this week.
Sutton Bridge farmer Stafford Proctor, chairman of the Wash Frontagers’ Group, met with prospective parliamentary candidate, John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) at his farm to demonstrate the importance of local sea defences.
“This is not just about farming and food production but our wider local communities, businesses and major infrastructure all depend on the sea banks to protect them from inundation,” he said.
“After more than 30 years of little or no major expenditure on the sea defences, we saw the 2013 tidal surge over-top them and cause considerable damage to farmland along the Wash coast.
“What would happen if another, just slightly higher, tidal surge broke the banks altogether and caused severe and long term damage to our towns, villages, power supplies and roads?”
The Wash Frontagers’ Group was formed last December on the first anniversary of the 2013 North Sea tidal surge.
It comprises 68 farmers and landowners from Skegness to Hunstanton who are concerned that the state of more than 80 km of sea defences needs addressing urgently.
“We’ve had strong support around the Wash from the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Boards and Local Authorities and – with their help – plan to start improving our coastal flood defences, starting with those most at risk,” he said.
“We’re urging politicians to support our plan and acknowledge that we must begin to take practical steps to enhance the sea defences around the Wash.
“We need quick action to ensure that farms, homes and businesses in the low-lying fenland area around the Wash are protected.”
The value of local agriculture and its upward supply chain is estimated to be worth around £3 billion a year, as well as supporting more than 60,000 jobs across the Fens.
“Add to this the thousands of homes, non-farming businesses, the roads, railways and power infrastructure that would be severely damaged by a seawater inundation, and we can all see that we need a major civil engineering project to raise the sea defences,” said Proctor.
“We need to convince our politicians there is an urgent need to augment our sea defences – we must secure government backing after the general election to protect the Fenland area for all people and businesses, not just for today but for the generations to come,” he added.
John Hayes, Conservative candidate, admitted the most recent tidal surge had shown how susceptible parts of Boston, Skegness and South Holland are to flooding from the sea.
“The Wash Frontagers’ Group is to be commended for taking the initiative in both bringing the issue of the needed improvements to the sea walls to public notice and also offering to take a practical role in facilitating the carrying out of works,” he said.
“The sea walls protect not only the people of this area and their homes but also the agricultural industry and the other sources of employment that are the back bone of our communities.”
If elected he promised to provide assistance to the campaigning group.