May 2003 Update

Having noted the comments on site re withholding council tax & before anyone considers such action I thought it would be pertinent to place on record how our council tax is split and who gets what.

The following is a breakdown per thousand pounds paid:

Norfolk County Council £777.41 Norfolk Police £107.84 Parish and Town Council Precepts £20.46 North Norfolk District Council £94.31 Total £1000.00

Obviously, the bit that we are concerned with is the amount NNDC receives, which is £94.31 out of every thousand pounds paid, which breaks down as follows:

Central Services £12.67 Parks – Leisure etc. £7.13 Economic Development £8.34 Environmental Services £11.62 Housing Grants & Benefit £13.31 Local Council Tax & Benefits £6.38 Planning & Transport £4.93 Sports / Recreation £8.48 Refuse Collection & Street Cleaning £13.02 Coast Protection £8.43 Total £94.31

Thus for every £1000 collected in Council Tax, the District Council (NNDC) receives £94.31 and spends £8.43 (app. 9%) on coast protection.

During the financial year 2002/03 approximately 50% of the annual revenue and budget for coast protection was spent at Happisburgh.

The calculations are endless, but to reduce it still further to terms in which I can make more sense of it – for every £100 in council tax paid by a householder, North Norfolk District Council receives just £9.43 from which app 84 pence is spent on coast protection.

So as you can see, withholding council tax would appear to be a very broad and blunt instrument in terms of effect.

I felt it to be right and proper that anyone considering that action should be fully aware of the facts.

Malcolm Kerby (20 May 2003)

Clifftop death sentence fury

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

ANGRY villagers are vowing to step up their battle for sea defences to protect their North Norfolk homes, despite being told by a top Government official there is no money in the pot.

A deputation from Happisburgh travelled to the corridors of power in London on Tuesday – but were met by gloomy news.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley offered them sympathy, but no hope of cash to shore up their shoreline.

A £700,000 rock groyne project was the last plan to fail to get off the ground because of a raft of delays, technical and funding problems.

And the cost of a scheme to protect the east end of the village and rebuild a storm-shattered lifeboat ramp is now put at £2 million.

Villagers were frustrated to hear Westminster officials constantly refer to problems meeting “criteria” during the hour-long meeting, but later talked of their determination to fight on.

Long-standing campaigner and home-owner Jack Hall said: “For them it is a problem, but for us it is a crisis.”

The meeting had confirmed there was no help coming from central Government, but they would carry on fighting for funding.

“There is absolutely no way that this can stop here – if it did we would be sentencing the village to death,” he said.

Coastal action group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said: “Of course we are disappointed – absolutely furious.”

He attacked the “completely dismissive attitude” of officials who were “so rigid in their approach.” But he said the campaigners would “go forward from here” – starting with another public meeting.

And local guest house owner Di Wrightson, whose home is now just yards from the clifftop, accused the Government of “completely failing to take into account the human cost of what is happening to our village.”

She said: “They just flatly refused to listen to the real consequences of what we are facing up to as individuals and as a community” – a charge the Minister later denied.

The trio were joined by parish councillor and publican Clive Stockton and Peter Frew, head of law and property at North Norfolk District Council.

MP Norman Lamb, who organised the meeting, was also “immensely disappointed” – but pledged to continue fighting.

He will call on Government officials to take more account of the longer-term threat of the sea breaking through into the Broads, and will seek support from other coastal MPs facing similar problems.

Other issues raised at the meeting included the question of compensation for those who lose their homes, the effect of the nearby Sea Palling rock reefs built in the 1990s and the possibility of justifying funding for sea defences by considering Happisburgh as an emergency situation.

After the meeting, Elliot Morley released a statement saying: “I sympathise with the residents who may suffer damage and distress because of the coastal erosion.

“However, we must accept that natural events such as coastal erosion can never be entirely prevented.

“I know that North Norfolk District Council does face many severe technical and practical problems as it seeks to devise sustainable defence measures for this frontage.”

Any application for Government funding would be considered “sympathetically against the normal technical, economic and environmental criteria and priority score arrangements.”

And he stressed that his department recognised the human aspect of coastal erosion — by taking account of social, health and environmental issues and not just economic values.

“Regretfully, there are major cost and technical challenges which makes any proposed scheme very costly to protect a very small number of homes.

“That is not to say a scheme may not be affordable or justified in the future but at the moment it does look difficult to do,” he said.

May 2003 Comments

The most frequently asked question in recent weeks is “When are the steps to the beach going to be put in?” After speaking to NNDC Coast Protection Engineers today I can confirm the steps will be in place week commencing Monday 12th May. This is a little while later than had been hoped due to production difficulties and delays, however we shall soon have safe access to the beach.

Whilst access will be safe, the beach and cliff base between the broken ramp and the end of beach road where the bay is forming remains difficult to negotiate, so please stay clear of this particular area if possible. Please adopt a common sense approach and do not attempt to scale the broken ramp, as a family of four complete with dog and bicycle did over the Bank Holiday weekend. We also spotted a rather foolish male attempting to scale the cliff by going up where there are many iron poles precariously perched all the way up the cliff face.

We are now just one week away from our meeting with Elliot Morley MP, let us hope that the meeting goes well. Our preparation is well under way, and we look forward to discussing the matter with he who holds responsibility. Any developments will of course be posted on this website.

We have started a new section effectively singing the praises of Happisburgh. In recent weeks Kipling’s poem The Dykes was brought to my attention remarkably it was written 101 years ago yet is as applicable today as ever. What better way to get our new section started.

Malcolm Kerby (06 May 2003)