�6.2m work needed on Cromer sea walls

Historic sea walls at Cromer need �6.2m worth of repair work in the next two years, and double that figure to keep them in good shape for another century.

Historic sea walls at Cromer need �6.2m worth of repair work in the next two years, and double that figure to keep them in good shape for another century.

The multi-million pound bill comes as the town's pier is also in line for �1m worth of urgent repairs.

More than a century of battering from the sand and flint-loaded waves has shot blasted and weakened the 110-year-old late Victorian sea walls.

Like the pier, the walls are not unsafe, but if nothing is done the walls will begin to fail - putting the promenade, pier access, and ultimately clifftop properties including hotels at risk, said North Norfolk District Council's head of coastal strategy Peter Frew.

In places the original walls are half way back into the promenade after other strengthening works. In other places what is behind them is unknown.

The worst spots are in the central area around the pier, but on the east beach parts of the sea wall had no proper foundations, were being undermined and needed piling.

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Moves to carry out the work - mostly wall and groyne improvements, date back to 2001, but were hit by a government freeze on coastal defences, followed by a change of funding assessment systems.

Under the new formula the Cromer scheme needed to fit into a wider strategy, which was approved by the council cabinet this week.

It also has to identify the repair and maintenance cost over the next 100 years, which is estimated at �12.5m. Because it potentially saves �84.3m worth of property the scheme is well ahead of the government target of a 5:1 cost-benefit ratio.

Mr Frew hoped the scheme would not fall foul of the current government spending review, as the Defra department in charge of coastal defence was currently not in line for the heaviest cuts.

'It is eligible and meets the grant criteria, but it will also have to compete with other places for the money in the pot, so we will see what the budget brings on June 22,' he added.

The reinforced concrete sea walls are listed for their historical importance as early examples of their kind, meaning government permission is needed to do work on them. And they would have to be replaced almost like-for-like, rather than adding the thinner kind of walls built during Sheringham's seafront improvements in the early 1990s.

Mr Frew said the council was also trying to invite new government ministers to the area to showcase its problems and how �3m worth of national Pathfinder cash was being used.

He said that in the future -as the Cromer to Happisburgh stretch of coast was re-examined - if the government did not provide funding for sea defences, it should provide cash to help communities adjust to the issues thrown up by a changing coastline.

Monday's cabinet also gave the go ahead to spend �1m of the council's own money on repairs to the pier's metal work and timber decking.

Further work - bringing the total spend to �3.2m - will need to be carried out over a longer period of time to keep the historic jetty in top condition.

Lead tourism councillor Hilary Nelson stressed that the pier was 'by no means unsafe' for visitors at the moment but emphasised the need to preserve it for the future.

She said: 'I think it is extremely important to recognise the value of Cromer pier to all our visitors including the district's residents.'

And coastal strategy cabinet member Clive Stockton hoped the seawalls work would be approved 'or Cromer pier won't be connected to anything.'