Norfolk and Suffolk flood defences dating back to the Eden and Macmillan governments are in need of urgent repair, upgrade and replacement as flooding along the East coast looks set to get worse in the coming years, a Suffolk MP has warned.

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In a House of Commons debate Waveney MP Peter Aldous called for a change in approach to flood risk management saying he feared the East coast would not be “third time lucky”.

He called for one department to take overall control, criticising a “more fragmented approach” since 1994 when the National Rivers Authority was scrapped, adding: “Locally, I believe that a whole river approach to flood management should be adopted ‘from source to the sea’ and we should on the basis that each catchment and each river is different and it is local people that know best.”

North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham also raised concerns about the future management of sea defences in Norfolk, telling MPs that “managed retreat” anywhere along the Norfolk Coast would not be acceptable. His comments come after the boss of the Environment Agency said earlier this year that the agency was weighing up plans not to repair defences in Brancaster, Blakeney and Salthouse, with consultants looking at the options following the tidal surge in early December. Chair of the Commons environment select committee Ann McIntosh, who called the debate, said she had never been a bit fan of the policy. She also told the Commons that the Environment Agency (EA) had not properly maintained buildings and river embankments at risk of flooding due to the direction of the last Labour government which wanted to protect nesting birds. The Tory MP said the EA had in the past not carried out enough inspections and minor repairs on buildings, had not properly managed vegetation and had not correctly controlled populations of burrowing animals near river embankments. Mr Aldous said: “The picture of the impact of the flood particularly on infrastructure and sea defences is still not complete and it is a race against time to get open the beaches the tourism season.”

He added: “Many of the sea defences on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast were put in place by the Eden and Macmillan Governments after the 1953 floods. They are now in need of urgent repair, upgrading a replacement.”

“In 2007, the wind dropped in the nick of time, whilst in 2013, the wind was blowing in a Northerly direction and there was no heavy rainfall. Mr Speaker, I fear that it will not be a third time lucky and it is important with this in mind that new defences are put in place as soon as practically possible,” he went on. Should the government re-think its approach to sea defences? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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