Flood defence changes could threaten Wells lifeboat

PUBLISHED: 07:09 09 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:01 07 July 2010

Wells lifeboat could be left inaccessible during a storm surge if ambitious changes to flood defences go ahead, warns the coxswain.

His fears were echoed by the town council on Monday.

Wells lifeboat could be left inaccessible during a storm surge if ambitious changes to flood defences go ahead, warns the coxswain.

His fears were echoed by the town council on Monday.

An idea under consideration by the Environment involves creating an increased tidal flow through Wells harbour, flushing away silt and keeping the channel navigable while maintaining flood defences for low-lying properties.

But Mr Frary is worried about the effect such a plan could have on the lifeboat house.

“If the tide does come through there in surge conditions it could cut a channel and leave the boat house isolated on an island. It could prevent crews getting to the boats.

The Environment Agency (EA) is carrying out a public consultation on a draft shoreline management plan (SMP) designed to help the North Norfolk coast adapt to rising sea levels during the next century.

One of the experimental ideas suggested is a £4.2m plan to reconstruct the defences to the east of the town further inland, allowing a managed flooding of land behind the existing east bank.

But Mr Frary said, if the plan was agreed, it could increase the load on the opposite west bank - which protects his crew's only access road to their rescue boat.

An EA spokesman said all opinions would be considered during the consultation, and the draft idea would not be put into action unless all “hurdles” were overcome.

Mr Frary said he discussed his opposition to the plan with coastal engineers at a recent consultation drop-in session.

“If we let more water into the harbour, it will put more weight on the beach defences,” he said. “I don't see the need for flushing the harbour out as there is no commercial shipping and 99pc of the use is from leisure boats. I also don't think Wells should be used as an experiment, not knowing what the full effects will be. There is a lot at stake and I am not sure it is the right thing to do.”

Mr Frary said the plan could also affect the location of a new boathouse which would need to be built if Wells is allocated one of the new all-weather lifeboats currently being designed by the RNLI.

At a meeting on Monday night Wells Town Council, which Mr Frary chairs, agreed unanimously to write to the EA voicing strong objections to the SMP plans for Wells.

Councillors also suggested that more pine trees or sea buckthorn plants should be planted to stabilise the exposed dunes to the west of the lifeboat station.

An EA spokesman said: “We need to step back and realise that the SMP is quite a high level document which identifies possible ways to improve flood defences and the environment.

“It has got lots of potential social benefits but nothing will progress until these hurdles are overcome and we are completely satisfied. The west bank at Wells is just one of these issues, but there are many things to think about. There is a lot of consultation and a lot of work still to do.”

t The SMP consultation continues until November 13. Draft documents can be viewed at

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