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Wirral council tax payers could face hefty sea defence bill
A WIRRAL coastal strategy has identified the need for sea defence works costing millions of pounds to be carried out over the next two decades.
Controversially, the Environment Agency has hinted that council tax payers might be billed for part of the work.
Wirral Council cabinet has been told that "partnership funding arrangements" needed to be explored for the successful delivery of the West Kirby flood prevention scheme (£1.8m); and refurbishment work to the Rock Park river wall (£1.7m) and Meols sea wall (£3.75m).
Funding would be made available through the Environment Agency’s Flood Defence Grant in Aid, but there would be an overall shortfall of around £3.5m.
Environment Agency guidance for partnership funding indicates many resources, including matched contributions from regeneration initiatives; contributions from council resources, use of the agency's Regional Flood and Coastal Communities levy and a possible levy on local rate payers.
Officers have warned councillors: "Intervention at these locations is required within the next 20 years."
The cabinet has been urged to allow regeneration director Kevin Adderley to investigate a programme and funding opportunities to cover the shortfall in funding.
The Rock Park project and reinforcement work at Wallasey Embankment are listed as low priority schemes.
Flood prevention work at West Kirby a reinforcement work to sea defences at Meols Parade have "moderate" urgency with work needed to be carried out in the next few years.
The cabinet, which meets next Thursday, has been recommended to approve the Wirral Coastal Strategy.
Its preparation was funded by a grant from the environment Agency and failure to approve it could result in the agency reclaiming the £208,000 coast.
During the 1970s and 80s there was significant investment in providing improved coastal defences, particularly across North Wirral and much of the shoreline now benefits from the man-made defences.
Since 2001 there has been no major capital investment in coastal defence measures across the Wirral sea frontage, apart from refurbishment of the outer wall of West Kirby Marine Lake in 2008.
There has, however, been continuing maintenance of existing coastal defence assets and ancillary infrastructure.
The need to identify measures for the future management of flood and coastal erosion risk led to the production of the coastal strategy.
Other coastal strips under scrutiny in the strategy include Heswall and Gayton sea defences, Thurstaston Cliffs, Caldy Cliffs and Hilbre Island.
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