FAMILIES living in fear of flooding today heralded a £108m cashpot to rebuild miles of sea defences.
Up to 13,000 homes will get extra protection with the mass overhaul of the crumbling coastal defences between Anchorsholme and Rossall, announced as part of one of the largest flood defence schemes in the UK.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – which says the scheme will create 20,000 jobs nationally – ended months of speculation by ringfencing the money for the joint Wyre and Blackpool project.
The Government’s announcement that more than £80m is to be invested at Rossall and £28m at Anchorsholme – as part of 93 schemes nationwide – has delighted local residents.
Norma and Peter Edwards, of Buttermere Avenue, Fleetwood recall the storms of November 1977 which brought flood devastation to homes.
Mrs Edwards told The Gazette: “This money will be great and if it prevents what happened all those years ago it will be money well spent.
“It was an exceptionally high tide and gale force winds. The sea was pounding against the sea wall but we didn’t think it would come right over.
“Later that night I looked out the window and saw the sea flooding down all the roads. Our house is a bungalow so there was nowhere upstairs to take refuge.
“It was very worrying, we had two small children.
“We tried putting towels, blankets and coats down against the door to stop the water coming in but of course it didn’t work.
“We tried to put things up high on furniture and on the sofa and luckily the children had bunk beds. I hoped they would stay asleep so they wouldn’t worry but one woke, tried to get out of bed and started crying because he was in water. It was about two feet deep.”
She said many of their belongings were ruined and they had to go and live with her sister in Bispham for a while until the house was cleaned up and dry.
Her husband Peter said: “The water came in under the front door and we just did not know what to do. There was no way to stop it. It caused a lot of damage to so many houses near here, many worse than ours.”
David Turnbull, 63, of Chatteris Place, Anchorsholme, said: “I regularly walk along the beach and my main worry at the moment is the wall breaking up so fast. The concrete has broken away and is gradually going out to sea which is very severe.
“This has been a concern for a long time and I’m very pleased the area has got this funding.
“The severity of the sea coming in is quite frightening.”
Mr Turnbull now hopes the new sea wall will ease his fears each time storms whip up.
He added: “We made inquiries into the history of flooding when we first wanted to buy the house.
“We were warned by our solicitor the Promenade wasn’t in a great state, but we thought it would be worth the risk because of the views we get.
“We are now able to stay here and perhaps it will put value on the houses because it has dropped dramatically since we got here.”
Other Chatteris Place neighbours have also welcomed the announcement after putting up with roads near the sea being closed due to flooding.
Eileen Andrew, 76, added: “I’m all for this. I’ve noticed kids kicking the concrete off the sea wall when I’ve been walking along there and it shows how damaged it is.
“But we love the views and that’s the price we pay, so hopefully this will really help us with our homes.”
Mary Robinson, 64, of Chatteris Place, added: “It’s excellent because this road is often closed because of flooding.
“I was hoping this would go ahead so we could live comfortably. It’s excellent news for the people of this street.”
Businessman Mike Schofield, 68, of Huntingdon Road, Anchorsholme, lives opposite Anchorsholme Park.
He said: “This is the best news I’ve heard in a while. When you look at Cleveleys it’s like this area has been left behind and this is going to enhance the neighbourhood and really help it.
“Fortunately for us the water goes past my home and the closest it’s been is on the driveway.
“When it does flood, Princess Avenue is closed off so everyone comes along this road and it’s quite difficult to get out of the street.
“The council has done a good job and they’ve worked hard to get this for us.”
Jane Littlewood, of the Rossall Beach Residents Association, said: “This is fantastic news. The Anchorsholme scheme is going to be of great benefit to Cleveleys.
“The wall at Fleetwood is in a poor state, the concrete is wearing away so it needs to be replaced. From an economic point of view, these schemes will be great for the local area and people.”
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “The 93 schemes given the green light today will bring huge relief to tens of thousands of homes and businesses that have lived with the fear of flood waters hitting their doors.
“They can get on with their daily lives and work knowing that there are well built defences.”