Those living on edge may get cash aid

Byline: By Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 12 January 2005)

A glimmer of hope of compensation for people who lose homes and businesses if sea defences are abandoned has emerged from a top-level meeting.

Campaigners from North Norfolk who have been pressing for such payments say they are heartened that senior civil servants are at least considering the issue.

A delegation from the north of the county was among those attending a seminar of coastal defence experts and Government officials at Westminster.

Co-ordinator of the Coastal Concerns Action Group, Malcolm Kerby, said he was “greatly encouraged” that officials were looking at the compensation issue.

It is a key concern of people around the region’s coast where a new draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) from Kelling to Lowestoft would shift from a policy of hold the line to managed retreat.

That would lead to the abandonment of many established defences, and result in £250m-worth of property being lost to the sea over the next century.

That sum however was only “peanuts” in Government terms, and it was a basic bit of social justice to ensure that if people lost their homes and businesses under such a policy switch, they should be paid at least market value, said Mr Kerby.

The Government should also indemnify any buildings rendered uninsurable and whose value was hit by the change, which would remove the blight the new SMP had already caused along the coast, even in draft form.

Mr Kerby said it was good that laymen campaigners like himself could “sit down at the highest level and put across our points of view” but they were only “third of the way up the compensation hill”.

MP Norman Lamb said he was “heartened” by the debate, following earlier negative official responses about the prospects of compensation.

He would continue to press for compensation including possible ways of funding it, which could include a carbon levy as global warming was one of the factors increasing coastal erosion.

Officers and members of North Norfolk District Council were also at the seminar, along with representatives from the Yarmouth and Waveney areas also affected by the SMP.

Chief executive Philip Burton welcomed the meeting but felt it was a pity such a gathering had not happened earlier – before the launch of the SMP and subsequent public outcry.

In the past such plans had been driven by academic and scientific considerations, and a mistake had been not involving people earlier, to look at the consequences for, and get the views of, the communities affected.

The council was unlikely to be able to adopt the SMP as it stood, because there were too many uncertainties – including the issue of compensation, he added.

Coast campaign is stepped up

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 10 January 2005)

A coastal defence campaigner from Norfolk will make heart-felt pleas for protection, compensation and “social justice” when he puts the county’s views to a high-powered seminar in London today

Malcolm Kerby has been at the forefront of Happisburgh’s long but fruitless battle to get Government funding to repair its shattered sea defences, which have resulted in the loss of clifftop holiday homes.

He is also an outspoken critic of a new coastal management plan covering a much wider area, from Kelling to Lowestoft, which is set to change policy from “hold the line” to managed retreat – resulting in the loss of £250m worth of property over the next century.

Today he is among 100 delegates at a seminar hosted by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Government ministry responsible for flooding and erosion issues, which is looking at “governance.”

Mr Kerby said he would be calling for a single over-arching agency with enough funds to look after both inland flooding and coastal defence.

While Environment Minister Eliot Morley trumpeted Government spending of £570m, there was a vast imbalance towards inland flooding, which saw the Environment agency get £443m, while coastal authorities, such as North Norfolk District Council, only had a total pot of £54m “at the bottom of the pile.”

Mr Kerby said inland flooding rarely resulted in total loss of property, unlike coastal erosion.

“A handful of houses were lost at Boscastle, which attracted millions of pounds of aid and visits from top politicians – but Happisburgh has lost 26 properties to the sea in the last 15 years, and has received nothing,” he added.

The British response to the Asia tsunami disaster had been wonderful, but he felt that if the public also realised that destruction of homes was happening on a smaller scale on their doorstep they would also be appalled, said Mr Kerby.

He would also be pointing out the Government had a duty to protect people’s homes and family lives under the Bill of Human Rights.

If they chose to ignore that they should consider compensation, which might help remove the blight now affecting places earmarked to lose their defences under the new Shoreline Management Plan.

If a natural coastline was “in the national interest” people should get compensation, like they would if their land needed for airports and motorways in the national interest.

There was a need for “social justice”, and for Government to “square the circle” by providing compensation if it did not provide defences.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was also attending the seminar to keep himself informed of developments.

The issue of managed retreat still needed to be challenged and he would raise the compensation issue too.

He also aimed to use new Freedom of Information Act powers to check out Government claims that compensation had never been discussed.

January 2005 Comments

As this is my first comment of 2005 I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has been kind enough to give Happisburgh the fantastic support we have enjoyed throughout the last year and indeed before that. Your support via the ongoing petition and postings on the forum are so important to our cause, also the private messages I have received all of which really do reinforce our strengh of purpose. We have received messages from all over the UK and right around the world, from many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, South America, Africa, Latvia, Russia etc.etc. It has been both humbling, extremely gratifying and good to know that so many people care so passionately about this small but beautiful part of England. I wish you all a healthy, happy and safe 2005.

We also would wish to thank the many friends we have made in theNational and International Press and Media in particular our thanks go to the Eastern Daily Press and it’s associate the North Norfolk News who along with BBC Radio Norfolk have done so much in putting us “on the map”.

As with many people around the world we, here in Happisburgh, have watched the horror of the Asian Tsunami Disaster unfold via our televisions and, as coastal dwellers, are only too well aware of the power of the sea.Our thoughts are very much with everyone affected by this tragic event. In common with millions of others our overwhelming desire to help has found expression in financial terms.

We are begining to see, through the petition and forum on this site, people thinking about “natural process” in relation to coastal issues.

It is part of the human condition I suppose that we all learn from experience and many will now be looking at the new draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for this area and it’s overwhelming call for a return to natural process with great scepticism because their experience will tell them that natural process can go horribly wrong as in the great storm surge and devastation around the North Sea coasts in 1953 resulting in over 2000 lives lost and the current happening in Asia and it’s horrific consequences. Much of which, in terms of human life, it seems could have been avoided had there been warning systems in place in the Indian Ocean as there is in the Pacific.

The problem is sea defences and oceanic warning systems are expensive. Our experience tells us though that the cost of not having them can be almost beyond comprehension!

Malcolm Kerby (08 January 2005)

January 2005 Comments

As this is my first comment of 2005 I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has been kind enough to give Happisburgh the fantastic support we have enjoyed throughout the last year and indeed before that. Your support via the ongoing petition and postings on the forum are so important to our cause, also the private messages I have received all of which really do reinforce our strengh of purpose. We have received messages from all over the UK and right around the world, from many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, South America, Africa, Latvia, Russia etc.etc. It has been both humbling, extremely gratifying and good to know that so many people care so passionately about this small but beautiful part of England. I wish you all a healthy, happy and safe 2005.

We also would wish to thank the many friends we have made in theNational and International Press and Media in particular our thanks go to the Eastern Daily Press and it’s associate the North Norfolk News who along with BBC Radio Norfolk have done so much in putting us “on the map”.

As with many people around the world we, here in Happisburgh, have watched the horror of the Asian Tsunami Disaster unfold via our televisions and, as coastal dwellers, are only too well aware of the power of the sea.Our thoughts are very much with everyone affected by this tragic event. In common with millions of others our overwhelming desire to help has found expression in financial terms.

We are begining to see, through the petition and forum on this site, people thinking about “natural process” in relation to coastal issues.

It is part of the human condition I suppose that we all learn from experience and many will now be looking at the new draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for this area and it’s overwhelming call for a return to natural process with great scepticism because their experience will tell them that natural process can go horribly wrong as in the great storm surge and devastation around the North Sea coasts in 1953 resulting in over 2000 lives lost and the current happening in Asia and it’s horrific consequences. Much of which, in terms of human life, it seems could have been avoided had there been warning systems in place in the Indian Ocean as there is in the Pacific.

The problem is sea defences and oceanic warning systems are expensive. Our experience tells us though that the cost of not having them can be almost beyond comprehension!

Malcolm Kerby (08 January 2005)