What is going to happen to The Coast Road? Flood-hit residents question future of their villages along vulnerable north Norfolk coast
PUBLISHED: 15:00 14 January 2017 | UPDATED: 20:47 14 January 2017
Salthouse shopkeeper Susan McKnespiey claimed the environment agency don’t want to build new sea defences within the Norfolk Coast Area of Natural Beauty - because they would be too “unsightly”.
Fed-up villagers have demanded action after they narrowly avoided being washed away by the sea during the weekend storm surge.
Peter and Susan McKnespiey, owners of Cookie’s Crab Shop in Salthouse, suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage to their business during the last serious floods to hit the area - in December 2013.
During the high tide on Friday night, the water stopped just centimetres from their front door. However, with claims a shingle bank was washed away, the neighbouring nature reserve at Cley was flooded and the main Coast Road between Sheringham and Cley was cut off.
The couple claim the environment agency, which builds, maintains and operates flood defences all over the country, don’t want to construct new sea defences within the Norfolk Coast Area of Natural Beauty - because they would be too “unsightly”.
Mr and Mrs McKnespiey claim the land around Salthouse is considered managed retreat - which allows an area that was not previously exposed to flooding by the sea to become flooded by removing coastal protection.
And now they have questioned the future of their village, and neighbouring communities along the vulnerable A149 Coast Road, if it is allowed to disappear into the sea.
Reflecting on last night’s drama, Mr McKnespiey said: “I think we were very lucky because what little bit of bank we had kept the tide back. Now we’ve got nothing.
“If we’re in managed retreat, when they are not going to do anything, perhaps someone will answer the question: what will happen to the Coast Road? If we’re in managed retreat, where is the traffic going to go? Or will all the businesses along this Coast Road disappear?
“They don’t want to spend any money, so the concern is what is going to happen to the Coast Road if that disappears? Holt couldn’t take the volume of traffic and all these little businesses would close. What is the future for our villages? I think they need to do something.”
But Mrs McKnespiey added: “They won’t put rocks in because it doesn’t look nice - that’s what they said the last time.”
Homes in Salthouse were evacuated and a rest centre set up in the village hall just hours before the storm surge hit around 7pm on Friday night. However, police officers had to be rescued by the fire service after becoming stranded.
And the main road through the village remained blocked by sea water and debris on Saturday.
Louise De Lisle, who just moved to Salthouse six months ago, said: “This is the first time since moving here that I’ve had this flood and I got my floodgates in and my board up so I was quite prepared, but the sheer force of nature was just incredible. And when you see it come in you do wonder if it is going to go away.
“I was watching it from my upstairs window and it came halfway up my wall but thankfully it kept it at bay.The flood wardens and the police came round just to make sure everything was okay so I felt safe and I felt that there were people there if I needed them.”
Most homes and businesses escaped any flooding but, as the sea subsides ahead of another high tide this evening, the mess left behind by the sea and resultant road closures is continuing to cause disruption for those affected.
June Kirkbride, who installed new flood defences at the old Post Office shop and deli in Salthouse after it was hit in the storm surge of December 2013, said: “It came really quietly, it’s good that it didn’t come in.
“It didn’t test our new defences because we were flooded in 2013. It was up to twice the skirting board but it was the drying out - eight months I was closed for.
“Just one (home) right at the end of the village have got a little bit in this time but for the most part we’ve survived.”
With swans swimming along a normally busy Coast Road in Salthouse, the Beach Road bus stop in Cley under water, and a canoe parked on the side of the road in Blakeney, the aftermath of the storm attracted sight-seers from near and far.
But, with narrow back roads quickly becoming choked, motorists are being advised not to travel unless necessary.
Roland Goodison, who lives opposite the quay in Blakeney, said: “The tide came about a metre up our wall and went up the street as far as just before the King’s Arms pub.
“We need to clear it (sea derbis) but it’s a community effort. We are expecting more tonight but I don’t think it will be as bad.”
North Norfolk District Council has confirmed a clear-up operation is underway across the region this weekend following Friday night’s high tide and gale force winds.
Officers have been out assisting people overnight and checking for damage along the seafront and promenades.
Cromer Pier has been closed after being damaged by waves and is likely to remain closed until Monday. Some beach huts at Cromer East and West Beach have been lost and there is damage to doors of chalets on the Prom. Meanwhile, the West Prom is likely to remain closed into next week because of damage to the surface of the promenade.
However, council chiefs are hopeful of opening the central area of Cromer Prom on Sunday.
Debris is continuing to be cleared from the promenades in both Cromer and Sheringham and the public is being warned to tread carefully along the coast and adhere to any signs or areas sealed off.
In Overstrand, some beach huts have been lost along with railings in front of the promenade. And concerns have been raiased that people may be accessing the promenade via Clifton Way, which the local authority has warned is dangerous.
Councillor Tom FitzPatrick, Leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: “We are out in force today to assess and repair the damage caused by the storm surge and I would like to urge people to respect the safety signs.
“Staff have been working alongside the community flood wardens, police, fire and coastguard to help our communities in the face of the surge and gale force winds; and for our teams the focus now is on helping the community to clear the debris and get everything safe and open to the public as quickly as possible.”
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