January 2009 Update – Natural England Press Release

I note with interest the press release from Natural England (NE) covering their decision to appeal the recent High Court judgement re Peter Boggis and the Easton Bavents cliffs.

Sean Thomas (Regional Director NE) says the judgement “threatens to stifle the ways in which advice and expert opinion can be used to inform planning and development decisions”

That, I would respectfully contend, is absolute rubbish. What it may do is force NE to take a more open, honest democratic approach which must surely be in the public interest.

Currently their paymasters and owners (the taxpaying public) have no input or influence whatsoever in how NE arrives at any decision be it for advice or otherwise. That is absolutely undemocratic and intolerable.

NE itself is an unelected, undemocratic quango which is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds annually and is getting in everyone’s way and doing a great deal of harm to individuals and communities around the coast.

As we all know there can only be one thing worse than the foregoing that is an unelected, undemocratic quango with powers!

What is really behind all this is that NE clearly does not wish to be forced into fully and publicly carrying out their assessments or have to justify their decisions or advice to anyone.

Over recent times I/we have met with more than one Minister of State and some very senior players in the field of coast management indeed one Minister revealed his impatience with NE by dismissing them completely saying “ignore them they are only advisers they have no say in policy”. Perhaps the time has now come to do precisely that.

Of course if we lived in a democratic, socially just society rooted in equality for all there would never have been any need for conflict between the residents of Easton Bavents and NE in the first place.

Unfortunately we do not live in such a society, it seems if one lives on the coast one is treated like a leper by being told to give up your land and property in the, so called, wider national interest and the wider nation takes absolutely no account of that. The individual is expected to bear the full cost.

Malcolm Kerby (15 January 2009)

January 2009 Comments: “How to waste taxpayers money with style and panache”

A strategy for promoting an integrated approach to the management of coastal areas in EnglandDEFRA, 6th January 2009

The above link will take you to what purports to be our Government’s view on how to implement Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in England.

This absolute debacle is not so much a strategy for ICZM, more an instruction manual on ‘how to over egg the pudding you’re not even making’!!

Surely we (the taxpayers) have a right to expect a constructive lead from our Government on issues as important to the well being of our island nation as coast management. What we are getting is a whole series of measures, plans, strategies and policies emanating from the centre which are unworkable, unacceptable and seem to increasingly prove how little comprehension exists within central Government and its Quangos of how the coast and it’s communities function, or what is needed to maintain their functionality through global warming, climate change and sea level rise.

Having read the foreword to this onerous document by the relevant Minister, currently Huw Irranca-Davies MP, I was extremely encouraged not least because I have long been calling for an ICZM approach rooted in a socially just framework, also because at last we have a Minister who should have some grasp of the theory of coast management (I believe he has a Degree in Estuarine and/or Coast Management)

Although I am unaware of any practical experience of actually managing an estuary or coast he may have. Then I read on and yet again bitter disappointment was mine!

Incidentally this does point to one of the significant problems we have in this country, coastal governance and the highly destructive target driven approach to coast management is being created and spewed out from the centre by theorists who have absolutely no experience of actually managing any part of the coast and its communities.

Over recent years there has been a significant shift in the skills base for managing the coast. Central Government no longer has adequate numbers of experienced people.

It is the Maritime Authorities who have the people with the skills and knowledge base to effectively manage the coast.

It is high time the Maritime Authorities stood together to tell central Government in the strongest possible terms enough is enough, they simply cannot continue with the massive underfunding of the coast, inadequate governance or the ridiculous constraints placed upon them.

What we have here is not really a strategy for the implementation of ICZM in England, it is yet another typically British cock up which will add to the confusion, further fragment the situation and increase the absolute chaos which currently passes for coast management in this country.

With so many Ministers coming and going it is difficult to keep up, however one thing is for sure whoever signed off this final document without it going out to consultation before release and public presentation should be dusting down their CV and searching for another job to which they are clearly more suited.

Oh yes, may I wish everyone a very healthy, happy and safe New Year.

Malcolm Kerby (07 January 2009)