Hundreds of homes in east Suffolk are still at risk of flooding as a "frustrating" criminal investigation drags on.

Community leaders have called for the Environment Agency's probe to be completed as soon as possible, as homes along the Alde and Ore estuary remain defenceless despite major flooding in the past.

The Environment Agency's investigation has paralysed work on the project since September 2018, with the Agency saying they were unable to offer a deadline for the investigation in a statement last month.

The Agency said they were continuing to gather evidence and interview people under caution, adding: "This process must not be rushed."

Following the Environment Agency's statement the Alde and Ore Community Partnership (AOCP) — a group of representatives from Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk Council, and from town and parish councils that are risk of flooding — met and unanimously agreed that the investigation was "delaying the AOCP and other partners progressing the project to better protect many hundreds of households".

Tim Beach, chairman of the AOCP, said: "It was strongly felt that the matter should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that reflected the interests of the community.

"The AOCP has limited knowledge of the detail of the investigation, but has understood throughout that it related to the storage of clay for use in reinforcing the flood defences on the river wall.

"The matter had been discussed by the East Suffolk Internal Drainage Board (ESIDB) and the Environment Agency at an early point and agreed as an innovative local solution to improving the flood defences."

Underlining the importance of the planned works, Mr Beach said: "This project will protect at least 207 residential and 125 non-residential properties, and 974 hectares of tidal floodplain and one of the largest mosaics of connected wetlands in the country, with internationally protected habitats which play host to a huge range of wildlife."

The trustees of the Alde & Ore Estuary Trust, a charity which is funding part of the works, wrote in a recent newsletter they had written to the Environment Agency three times to find out when they would be able to sign off their financial proposal but had no response.

The trustees added: "While we have to respect the processes the Environment Agency need to go through, it is frustrating to have to wait, not least as they have been part of the process from the outset."