A PARISH councillor who took part in rescue efforts following the 1953 floods fears similar devastation will strike our coast again.

“I repeat what I have said in the past – it’s not if we have another flood, it’s when we get another flood,” said John White, 83, from St Osyth.

“At one time we were told there was a one in 200 years chance of another flood, then one in 100 years, and there’s even murmurings of its being possible with climate warming of being a one in 50-year chance.

“Given it’s been 70 years since the last one – it does worry us.

“In those days there were the only two people living in Seawick Road. Now there must be several hundred.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: John White at the scene where he helped with the 1953 flood at St Osyth.
Copies showing the scene.

“We would never be able to get all of those out in times of flood.”

He said that St Osyth Parish Council and Tendring Council have continually raised concerns about people living in former holiday homes throughout the winter.

Many people’s homes in the flood risk zone include conditions that they cannot be occupied all year round, but some have been given permission despite the risks.

Mr White added: “After the last flood, Tendring Council put planning restrictions on properties saying that they are only holiday lets, that they were constructed to just be used in the summer months and there should be no one living all year round.

“But, of course, we know now there’s a tremendous amount of people living down there – and if the water came in as quickly as it came in last time, when it broke the sea wall in several places and was 6-7ft deep in 15 minutes, we would never get them all out.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Rescue - firefighters going to the aid of residents in JaywickRescue - firefighters going to the aid of residents in Jaywick

“We’ve had planning inspectors overturn district council decisions to allow people to live all year round at certain properties – one of the most ridiculous decisions was to allow people over the age of 70 who had lived there ten years to live the rest of their lives out in the properties.

“They will be the least agile if we needed to rescue them.”

Mr White said that the sea walls were raised quite extensively between 1953 and now, but that in recent years water has frequently come to about 1ft short of the top during spring tides.

“Those of us who have been here for a long time are definitely worried,” he said.

The Environment Agency said it carried out a £1.4million scheme at Seawick in 2020 to install rock armour around the sea wall at Hutley’s Gap and in front of the Bel Air Chalet Estate.

It saw 12,000 tonnes of rock installed to help protect the sea wall from erosion.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: The Environment Agency scheme for Seawick Sea Defences will help protect 27 homes, businesses, 1,800 caravans and 343 holiday chalets from flooding.It will reduce the risk of erosion to the existing sea defences by placing rock armour around the sea wall

The agency said the project has helped to reduce the risk of flooding to 370 properties and 103 non-residential properties.

Work was also carried out in Jaywick in 2016.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “Since the devastating flooding that happened on the East Coast in 1953, flood forecasts have since been introduced, including the use of tide, wave and weather data, meaning businesses and emergency responders are now much better prepared.

“Much of the investment in flood prevention has been focused on areas where there was major loss of life.

“Over £400million has been spent on work to protect the coast and tidal waters of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex since 2005.

“The Government is also investing £200million for the Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation programme to support local places including coastal communities.

“It includes the £36million Coastal transition accelerators programme which will support communities in areas at significant risk of coastal erosion to transition and adapt to a changing climate.”