Southwold residents voice frustration as Environment Agency finally granted warrant to resolve flooding issue at Potter’s Bridge, B1127
The Environment Agency (EA) has been granted a warrant to resolve ongoing flooding at a bridge in the countryside - as residents have spoken of their frustration.
Potter’s Bridge, on the B1127 near Southwold, is regularly impassable due to flooding, caused by a blocked outfall in the Oulton Broad.
The landowners of the estate, Easton Bavents Limited, had refused to grant access to the agency to clear the outfall and offered to do it themselves. However, the EA refused and pressed ahead with securing the ruling.
Residents have said they are annoyed about perceived inaction as the issue has been ongoing for a number of years, but also the danger it causes as motorists seek alternative routes.
Regarding the warrant, an EA spokesperson said: “We can confirm we have obtained a Magistrates' Court Warrant to enter the site.
“When weather conditions allow, we will take access to carry out our works.”
The works will involve reinstating a drainage channel to stabilise water levels on the Broad, and it is likely to take a couple of days under normal maintenance conditions.
John Huggins is a Southwold resident with four generations of family from the town, and whilst he understands the complexity of the issue, he stressed it is something that impacts people on a daily basis.
John said: “I do understand this is a difficult time to push for a solution to the situation at Potter’s Bridge, but it’s a situation that has been going on for years; more intensely in the last two years with official closures.
“It effects so many people here on a daily basis: residents, visitors, businesses, delivery, drivers, emergency services as well as the residents of Wangford when the road is flooded or closed.
“There is also the A12 Wangford junction to consider, with so many people reluctant to use it.”
When the bridge is flooded and the B1127 impassable, access to the town’s nearest hospital, James Paget, is significantly affected.
Wangford Road becomes a particular issue when the water spills over onto the road, as drivers use it as an alternate route.
A resident who lives there said: “In the past EA used to blame Highways for the flooding and vice versa, but most recently EA is blaming the landowner.
“Luckily for us, the Broad was emptied last year by the sea breaching it and so the road had been clear for months.
“However, it would appear that instead of continuing to secure the access, the EA did nothing and now it's become a problem again and we're back to waiting for this elusive warrant – it's just inaction and buck passing all round.
“When Potter’s Bridge is out of action, the volume and speeding of the traffic is awful – I walk a lot and am quite nervous on the narrow pavement as people whizz past me, sometimes very close.
“I am very worried that the level of inaction and wanton neglect of the road is going to result in it being closed permanently; I don't want to move but fear ending up having no choice as living here becomes unbearable.”
The resident also noted that 220 houses are due to be built just off of the road, and with the traffic that could come in as a result of LionLink, the problem may only get worse.
David Beavan, deputy leader of East Suffolk Council and Southwold Town Councillor, has been involved in the issue for many years, including buying a monitor with his locality budget so that residents can check the water level in the broad before travelling and whether it will be safe to use the road.
As the only high road out of Southwold, he is also frustrated by the lack of action from the EA at Potter’s Bridge, and thinks they need to get a move on.
Cllr Beavan said: “I would expect them (the EA) to get working now as the beach is closed; they have the council warrant and they were just waiting for the beach to heal.
“I hope they do sort it; why has it taken three years to get this far, why didn’t they just let the farm owner do it for them – I don’t follow the logic.
“We’re lucky that no one has been hurt as a result of the flooding yet, and we probably still will get flooding in the future as the road is below sea level.”
Cllr Beavan also noted that, whilst the issues present a significant problem for residents of the area, the constant changing water levels is also damaging to wildlife, with Bitterns unable to nest properly.
Easton Bavents Limited had previously offered to do the work at Oulton Broad for the EA and paid £1,000 for a licence to do so, however the EA refused.
In a previous statement, the company lampooned the ‘state sponsored bullying of a small company’ by the EA, and suggested that higher authorities were not being straight with the public.
Dr. Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal and Environment Secretary, said in a statement: “I’ve met and pressed the case with the Environment Agency on multiple occasions to expedite a solution on this including encouraging them to use the powers available under the Water Resources Act.
“So, I’m glad action will now be taken – access to the site, which had previously been denied by the landowner, will enable the Environment Agency to reinstate the drainage channel to stabilise water levels.
“According to them periodic storm surges or heavy rainfall will still create some flooding on the B1127, but the duration of any event should be significantly reduced with effective outfall to the sea.”