Protect our coast, ministers urged

By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 06 July 2006)

Worried coastal residents have been given new hope as council leaders defied the government over plans to let the sea swallow up clifftop communities in north Norfolk.

Leaders of North Norfolk District Council refused to sign up to the controversial shoreline management plan (SMP), which advocates “managed retreat” of all areas except the main towns.

The document is designed to outline how the coastline from Kelling to Lowestoft will be managed for the next 100 years.

Council chief executive Philip Burton said: “We will not sign the SMP. We are not going to be browbeaten by a fear of government grant being withdrawn. Ninety-nine per cent of people rejected the proposals, and that’s our starting point.”

Deputy leader Clive Stockton said: “There is no way we are going to sign up to the SMP unless it addresses the issues for the people of north Norfolk.

“If we cannot defend the entire coastline, there’s got to be a managed situation where people are compensated and helped to get over losing everything they own.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb agreed, and said: “I find it remarkable that the consultants can imagine that it’s politically viable or indeed right for the council to support it, given the strength of feeling through the consultation process.”

The defiance came as coastal residents promised “anarchy” after a last ditch bid to include the need for compensation in a key component of the SMP collapsed.

There was anger in April when a response to public consultation about the SMP overlooked more than 2,500 objections and brushed over the issue of compensation for residents who could lose their homes.

North Norfolk council was asked to add a foreword to the response by consultants Halcrow, spelling out the “social justice” issues.

But the attempt collapsed because the members of the officer-led client steering group involved could not agree the wording.

The group comprises north Norfolk, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Defra, the Environment Agency, English Nature and Great Yarmouth Port Authority.

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group, said: “I have already told the client group that if they publish this without the preface there will be anarchy.

“The whole thing is unacceptable as it stands. It should be withdrawn now and no further attempts made until social justice is built into it.”

July 2006 Update – SMP Consultation Response

When reading the response to last years Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) consultation I would ask everyone to remember that the SMP was required by Defra. The company which produced the SMP was appointed by Defra and paid by Defra. The guidelines and parameters within which the SMP was produced were laid down by Defra. What we are dealing with here is very much a Defra SMP produced in the name of the Local Authorities.

The SMP consultation response is absolutely scandalous, a complete whitewash, it makes no attempt whatsoever to take account of and build into the SMP local views. Like the SMP itself it chooses to ignore scientific fact that if selected, comparatively small, parts of the coast are defended it simply is not possible to achieve natural process elsewhere along the coast. The end result will be coastal chaos. Some would say pretty much a true reflection of the state of current coastal defence policy itself for England and Wales.

What we do learn from the response is that the SMP consultation itself was merely window dressingfor a hopelessly inadequate, technically flawed SMP. It would certainly appear it was decided early on that there should be a period of public consultation, without it much criticism would have been leveled at Defra. However it seems the attitude was ‘don’t worry lads we will have the consultation, invite comment then ignore it’ and stick to the original inadequate, seriously flawed policies anyway.

Almost 2500 people became engaged with the system believing the consultation to be an honest one. Every one of them has been let down by that system.

Quite simply what has gone on here stinks.
Consultation? … What consultation!!
Response? … What response!!

Go back to the drawing board Defra and your house trained, tame consultants. The people of Norfolk and indeed this country have a right to expect more of you. What you have produced thus far is inadequate, inoperable for the Local Authorities and unsustainable in the extreme.

Malcolm Kerby (04 July 2006)

July 2006 Comments

As many people have pointed out to me, it is many months since I have made comment. This is not for the lack of material to comment upon, but simply because I felt very strongly that after the veritable whirlwind of activity in the wake of the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) and the consultation which followed, I rather foolishly believed that given the space and time to take on board the consultation findings, the Civil Servants would finally come up with some common sense.

Much has happened in recent times; perhaps most significantly we have a new Minister in charge of coast defence policy. One would earnestly hope that this Minister is going to be his own man and not let his civil servants bamboozle him with their rather obscured view. By obscured I mean they are seemingly unable to move away from the way things have always been done, much of their approach seems to be rooted in misconception and fear of change.

It is quite possible that we are facing unprecedented problems in the management of our coastline. Global warming and the consequent rise in sea level combined with a sinking land mass, changes in weather patterns with a high probability of a marked increase in rather more extreme storm activity. The relatively new discovery of global dimming which seems to pose a real cath 22 scenario that if we are effectively changing the way we live, clean up our act and reduce carbon particle emissions it may allow even more of the sun’s energy to reach us thereby accelerating global warming.

There has never been a time in our development requiring lateral thinking in coastal defence more than now. There is a demand for green energy. Why can we not think about tri functional sea defences? Defences which use the massive tidal force of the sea to produce renewable energy as well as enhancing the tourism value for the many coastal areas requiring regeneration. Along with those benefits surely we could construct them in such a way that we actually manage and enhance the sediment budget? This I believe is the truly sustainable way forward; sea defences which pay for themselves over time.

Is it really beyond us? After all we can make bombs which follow a laser line to deliver pinpoint accuracy, missiles which can follow a road map. Isn’t it amazing how we can spend billions on ever more sophisticated means of destroying man and his habitat but so very little on the preservation of man and his habitat?

Finally, I would thank the new Minister, Ian Pearson MP most sincerely for meeting with our MP Norman Lamb and three of us from North Norfolk so early in his new post. That could not have been easy for him but greatly appreciated. The Minister also volunteered to come to North Norfolk and see for himself “before the summer is out”. Hats off to the man and I very much look forward to offering him a genuinely warm and constructive welcome to this area.

Malcolm Kerby (03 July 2006)

Anger over coastal defence document

Byline: By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 03 July 2006)

Campaigners in threatened clifftop communities promised “anarchy” last night after a spat between officials over wording left the case for compensating homeowners out of a key coastal defence document.

There was widespread anger in April when a response to public consultation about the shoreline management plan (SMP) for Kelling to Lowestoft overlooked more than 2,500 objections.

It also brushed over the issue of compensation for the thousands of residents who could lose their homes and livelihoods if the plan to allow “managed retreat” of the coastline at all spots except the major towns goes ahead.

North Norfolk District Council was then charged with the task of adding a foreword to the response by consultants Halcrow, spelling out the “social justice” issues.

But last night it was revealed that the attempt had collapsed because the members of the “client steering group” involved in drafting the foreword could not agree the wording.

Now the members – North Norfolk, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Defra, the Environment Agency, English Nature and Great Yarmouth Port Authority – are faced with having to receive the Halcrow report, even if they do not all agree with it.

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group, said the situation was “disgraceful”.

He said: “I have already told the client group that if they publish this without the preface there will be anarchy.

“The whole thing is unacceptable as it stands. It should be withdrawn now and no further attempts made until social justice is built into it.

“If it goes out as the response there will be uproar. Quite simply, we are not having it. If some idiot from the government comes along here and says we’ve got to sacrifice everything in the public interest, they can think again.”

The Kelling to Lowestoft stretch is one of three pilot areas for the second generation of SMPs, which are being drawn up to govern the defence of the coast for the next century.

When it was initially published, there was uproar at the policy of “managed retreat”, which would leave communities like Overstrand, Mundesley and Happisburgh undefended.

It now stands unadopted and with no statutory power – leaving threatened communities in limbo.

Peter Frew, head of democratic, legal and property services at North Norfolk, said: “The foreword could not be drawn up because of the differing views of the client steering group.”

He said the SMP was “unlikely” to be adopted by the council as it stood, but added: “I have a concern that if we don’t adopt it in full, it will be more difficult to secure grant aid for coastal defence work.”

The latest twist came as it emerged that a promised visit by the new environment minister, Ian Pearson, could slip back into the autumn.

Mr Pearson, who took over from Elliot Morley in May’s reshuffle, was keen to visit the north Norfolk coast before the Commons’ summer recess begins on July 25.

But holidays and commitments at both ends mean the visit is likely to be September at the earliest.