Roythornes solicitors, a top 200 national law firm, has successfully overseen a £1.8 million sea defence project for a consortium of 14 Lincolnshire landowners and tenants.
Located in Wrangle, Boston, five kilometres of sea defence – which protects 460 domestic and industrial properties together with 3,400 hectares of prime grade one farmland – has been substantially improved to reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic flooding. The potential threat was highlighted by the collapse of adjacent sea defences during the tidal surge of December 2013.
A partnership to enable the works to be carried out was created between the Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board, the Environment Agency, Lincolnshire County Council and fourteen landowners and farmers.
Simeon Disley, partner at Roythornes, represented the landowners and sat on the project board. He is also a committee member of The Wash Frontage Group – a group which campaigns for improvements in the sea defences around The Wash – so has extensive knowledge of the area.
Simeon said: “The increased threat from rising sea levels and extreme weather events to those who live and work in low lying areas means it is important for the protection of all and the economic future of the area that the sea defences are improved. The scale of the challenge, together with the constraints on public expenditure, led to a new model of partnership and project management being created.”
For the first time Environment Agency funds, together with European Union funding, were spent by the Internal Drainage Board acting as project leader. The works were overseen by a project board made up of representatives of the partnership together with Natural England and the contractors.
The project involved re-profiling the sea banks and raising them to more than seven metres high with a rear slope leading to a further drainage system in case of particularly high tides.
Simeon added: “It was a highly sensitive project as the area sits alongside a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so the environmental considerations were crucial to the development and design of the bank. We were also keen to retain as much of the important agricultural land as possible for grazing and food production.
“We regularly advise our clients on the ever-changing complexities that the ownership of agricultural land presents and in addition to representing the landowners and farmers, we supported the project with practical and strategic legal advice throughout the innovative scheme.
“I’m therefore delighted that a solution was reached and the land is now fully protected. The sea defences can now keep pace with climate change to help protect the homes and businesses located on the Wash.”
One of the landowners represented by Roythornes was Hugh Drake who farms approximately 800 acres on the northern edge of the Wrangle project, growing wheat, vining peas, brassicas and potatoes.
He said: “The government’s recognition of the vulnerability of the sea-defences on the western side of the Wash has been a great step forward and follows the damage done by the events of December 2013.
“In those parts of the sea-banks where there is only a single line of defence, the risks of flood damage to valuable farmland, residents and property, as well as the substantial business enterprises in the area, have now been addressed and the Wrangle project is a step in the right direction to improve the resilience of the sea-defence.”
Peter Bateson, chief executive of Witham Fourth District IDB, added: “This was a comprehensive project that followed a major survey in 2016 to identify the existing profile of the banks, collect environmental information and to assess the full scope of the works.
“Crucially, the programme required the buy-in of all involved, particularly landowners and businesses, as well as the local community. We also were very conscious of our environmental commitments, and liaised closely with Natural England, RSPB and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.”
Roythornes is a top 200 law firm with offices in Alconbury, Peterborough, Nottingham and Spalding – its head office. The company works across a number of sectors including agriculture and energy and waste but it has a particularly strong property and planning team with a growing national presence.