BUSINESSES and people in the county are said to be benefiting from an initiative to protect the sea walls.

Witham MP Priti Patel paid a visit to the sea wall in Tollesbury to meet with representatives from the Environment Agency (EA) and the Essex Coast Organisation (ECO).

Ms Patel met with the EA area director Graham Verrier, technical specialist John Lindsay, field team leader Dave Simpson and catchment engineer Joe Rogers, along with local landowner and ECO chairman Andrew St Joseph.

Some smaller repairs to the sea wall and flood defenses are carried out by local landowners who established ECO in an innovative scheme developed with the EA.

Ms Patel said: “Tollesbury has a unique environment with its saltmarshes and nature reserves and incredible scenery with the Blackwater Estuary.

“Maintaining the environment and protecting the area from flooding is important and I commend the work of local landowners who have taken a strong interest over many years in maintaining the sea wall.

“Andrew has been a great local champion of this cause, and sea walls in other parts of the county are benefiting from the example of collaboration and practice with the Environment Agency shown here.

“I will be continuing to highlight this work with the Government and press Ministers for more support for flood defences to protect homes and businesses in Essex.”

Mr St Joseph said: “The seawalls of Essex – all 350km of them – are key infrastructure for the county.

“Many are over 300 years old. They protect thousands of homes from flooding as well as many farms and businesses, not to mention roads, railways and water treatment works.

“As well as flood risk management, they are an integral part of the England Coast Path and require funds to be well managed for both uses.

“We are proud to be a locally based organisation using private and public funding to develop the most cost-effective forms of management.

“We work closely with the Environment Agency to fine tune the necessary regulations to enable defects to be quickly and simply repaired.

“We are grateful to Priti for the opportunity to highlight this effective partnership with the EA and Essex County Council Highways.”