June 2004 Comments

My comments this month are intended to cover a number of important issues.

First let us consider the three ‘pilot’ Shoreline Management Plans (SMP’s) which I assume DEFRA have requested be done. There are three District Councils (Lead Authorities) involved:

  1. North Norfolk District Council for Sheringham to Lowestoft area.
  2. Shepway District Council covering Dover to Beachy Head.
  3. Arun District Council covering Beachy Head to Selsey Bill.

I have tried to obtain information on what the Sheringham to Lowestoft proposed plan will contain but have been told no information will be released until public consultation. So I shall have to have a shot at predicting what they will say in the broadest of terms. One thing I think we can be sure of is that the SMPs will not reflect the true aims and requirements of the Lead Authorities. Quite simply I believe the parameters set by DEFRA were too narrow and will ultimately therefore only reflect the DEFRA view of what should be done. Neat trick that because I believe when we the public see these SMPs we are not going to like them one bit. I believe they will advocate saving, or protecting, only the major conurbations and let the rest go. Obviously they will dream up some new policy title for areas where they intend to do nothing it used to be called managed retreat ( but that implied some kind of management which there was not) that then became coastal realignment what, I wonder, will the next euphemism be? May I suggest one a little closer to the truth, abdication of responsibility or dereliction of duty spring to mind.

We all accept there must be a more complete approach to coast defence and very little can be viewed in isolation. If our Government or the Civil Servants decide that much of our coastline, as we know it, and many of our historic coastal settlements and communities must be sacrificed in the greater national interest (not a view to which I and many others subscribe) then they must MANAGE that sacrifice, or retreat, effectively. When a motorway or airport runway is built in the greater national interest those who suffer losses as a result are compensated fully that they may make a new life elsewhere. All we as coastal dwellers ask is parity. We need a mechanism by which any coastal retreat or realignment can really be managed effectively and those who face a total loss situation because our Government wishes to allow the defensive line to be moved landward are adequately and effectively compensated for being forced to surrender their homes, businesses and communities in the perceived wider national interest. I very strongly and firmly believe that the three pilot SMPs when presented for public assent can only be accepted by our elected members if and when they include complete and just means of mitigating the full socio-economic impact on our coastal communities. That is the only circumstance under which they should meet with our elected members approval. To return to my earlier comment of neat trick, DEFRA have drawn up the parameters under which these new SMPs are put together. So when they meet with our disapproval DEFRA can say, it’s nothing to do with us it was the lead authorities who created the SMPs. As I said neat trick, not entirely honest but then DEFRA will do anything to put the Lead Authorities up front. To the elected members of the Lead Authorities I would say when you come to vote on these Shoreline Management Plans on our behalf please remember we will only accept them if they are a complete management philosophy with full mitigation and or compensation for the havoc they are probably going to wreak in socio-economic terms on the many coastal communities around our shores. If they are perceived to be the best way forward in the wider national interest then the nation must take full account and compensate accordingly.

Another major factor which influences the lives of our coastal communities is offshore dredging for aggregate. The Europeans are in no doubt whatsoever that aggregate dredging causes or exacerbates coastal erosion. Indeed we were assured of that on the occasion of our visit to Brussels and meeting with Eurosion project team members. That assurance was contained in the Eurosion draft policy recommendations (Dec 2003). I knew when I returned from Brussels that the information I now had was dynamite. I also knew that our lot, Ministers and Civil Servants, would not take that lying down. For years they have got away with saying, as Elliot Morley keeps repeating “ There is no evidence.” Well we returned from Brussels with evidence. To Elliot Morley I would say of course there is no evidence in this country because you have not and will not look for it. You know full well what you will find and that you would have to act on it. So I can only assume the British Government and Civil Service approach is do not look for evidence of the manifestly harmful effects of offshore dredging then we will not have any and consequently we will not have to do anything. Elliot you can fool some of the public all of the time, all of the public some of the time. What you can not do is fool all of us all of the time.

All seven of the licensed dredging areas around our shores are suffering coastal erosion problems. In some, like Happisburgh, erosion is running massively ahead of all expert forecast and prediction. I believe it is no coincidence that in these areas dredging activity has increased markedly. There must be a moratorium placed on the dredging for marine aggregates until proper effective independent studies have been carried out to determine precisely the effects on our marine and coastal environment. Incidentally the final Eurosion policy document had all embarrassing references to dredging in the UK removed and the leading Eurosion team member has ‘resigned’! I wonder why! As I said previously I knew our lot would not take it lying down. It would seem they were very active behind the scenes. Thanks to European honesty we now have confirmation of the harmful effects of dredging. Our Government and Civil Service will do all that they can to rubbish those findings for a multitude of reasons:

  1. They will not wish to give up their huge income from royalty payments and subsequent taxation of the products ( this amounts to approx. £1 million per week from off the Norfolk coast alone) so nationally the Government take is massive.
  2. If this Government is to meet it’s building targets for homes, particularly in the South East, the adequate supply of aggregates at what is deemed reasonable cost is of strategic importance. Yet again coastal communities are being forced to bear the cost, this time of an industry from which the companies involved and the Government are making billions of pounds annually.

Elliot Morley when questioned on this income simply says the income from dredging is not directly linked to coast defences. Isn’t that amazing and ground breaking! Elliot old son my taxes are not directly linked to you or your Chief Engineer’s salaries but I still have to contribute to them and believe me that really hurts!!! How many more increasingly ludicrous excuses is DEFRA and Government going to come up with for failing to maintain for future generations the rich and diverse coastal heritage of this Nation? How much longer can they seek to shift the blame to the Lead Authorities when DEFRA themselves render those Lead Authorities powerless in this situation?

How much longer can we hope to address effectively the problems of global warming, significant sea level rise and the change in weather patterns it would seem we face with a primary statutory instrument, the Coast Protection Act 1949, which is so outdated and outmoded in this modern environment. Indeed the 1949 Act it seems to me was only a revamp of the 1939 Act so we are trying to address a modern situation and new problems with a 65 year old toolkit!! We need change, we need change at every level. A good place to start would be with the primary legislative tool, a new Act of Parliament which actively prevents Ministers and Civil Servants from becoming ever more embroiled in the playground game of ‘pass the buck’. Remove permissive from the power let us have an Act of Parliament which is crystal clear in it’s apportionment of responsibility. All we have at the moment is an outdated statutory instrument behind which every level of authority can and does hide, pointing the finger of blame at others whilst doing nothing themselves. Let us have an Act of Parliament which removes the need for Secretary of State and Ministers having to approach the Treasury each year with a begging bowl and a plea to the Chancellor of the Exchequer “please sir may we have some more that we can save our nation from drowning.” Only to be slapped on the wrist with the Treasury Green Book or Multi Coloured Document and told no! Presumably because the Chancellor has to retain billions of pounds of our money to throw around the world protecting us from what is not there anyway. Sounds a bit like a Brian Rix farce to me, unfortunately it is not.

In October 2000 the European Bill of Human Rights was enshrined in British law, so we now have our own Bill of Human Rights. This raises some interesting questions in coast defence and flood management terms. On 1st April this year Sarah Nason, head of Flood Management Division DEFRA wrote to the flood management stakeholders forum attaching a paper under the heading, Maintenance of uneconomic sea flood defences: A way forward. This is a very interesting document particularly if you ‘read between the lines’ there are many aspects of this paper on which I could comment however I shall for now restrict my comment to paragraph 25 under the heading Human Rights in which Ms Nason specifically refers to three articles they are 1, 8 and 6 of the first protocol. I firmly believe DEFRA are in breach of articles 1 and 8 however she does state “ essentially, no one can be deprived of the unimpeded use of his or her land except in the public interest.” Obviously some of the residents of Happisburgh who have already lost land and property and those who will lose land and property have and are doing so in the public interest. Were that not the case they would surely have continued to be defended. Ms Nason goes on to say, I quote “the Act recognises the need for a balance between public interests and private rights, with measures taken to further the former at the expense of the latter required to be proportionate.”

The sacrifices which have and are being forced upon some Happisburgh landowners and homeowners have and are being made as Elliot Morley has stated “ in the wider tax payers interests.”

As I see it unless and until measures are put in place to ‘square the management circle’ and compensate said landowners and homeowners then their sacrifices and losses are disproportionate and therefore in direct contravention of the Bill of Human Rights.

Malcolm Kerby (14 June 2004)

May 2004 Comments

The DTI sponsored Foresight Study published on the 22nd April 04 took on board the likely consequences of continuing lack of investment in coast defences. CCAG has, for some years, been raising awareness of the abject folly of this Government’s do nothing approach to coast defence.

I now feel totally vindicated in pointing out to Elliot Morley and his department the huge disservice they are doing to this nation in coast defence terms. Their lack of judgement, foresight and policy (including their instrument for exclusion – cost benefit and point score) will ultimately cost us the taxpayers many many millions of pounds more than it need or should. Indeed I would contend that the current DEFRA stance is irresponsible in the extreme.

It does rather beg the question: Is it Ministers ignoring sound Civil Service advice or is it the Civil Service ignoring the needs and requirements of the people and giving their Ministers seriously flawed advice? Either way they are both culpable jointly or severally!

They are quite simply derelict in their duty of care and protection of the people. Particularly whilst in the full knowledge of the likely effects of global warming, its effect on weather patterns and glacal rebound; the combined effects of which, according to the experts, will raise sea levels in the south east by some 5-6mm per annum. So by 2024 we can expect a sea level some 100-120mm higher than we currently enjoy.

I am told the effect of this rise on wave height and intensity could be disasterous. Yet we have a Government department, DEFRA, burying their head in the sand of criteria. Their only answer seems to be to comission a report and then another report then reports on reports all of which costs huge amounts of OUR money. Money which would be much better spent actually doing something constructive rather than just covering their backsides.

There will shortly be a new Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for this area. I am willing to bet it will be pages and pages long, have cost many thousands of pounds to produce, will use all the latest buzz words ie. Sustainable, Sustainability, Natural Equilibrium,Holistic etc. whilst recommending precious little be done. Then the Minister whoever he or she may be can continue to do nothing and point the finger of blame at the SMP.

In my letter to Elliot Morley of the 23rd November 2003 and in previous postings on this site I have spoken of the financial and economic consequences of spending too little on coast defences in the short term. Every day nothing is done so the problem gets worse and becomes more difficult and expensive to address.

There can be no sound economic justification for not building some defences now. Delaying the solution will cost the taxpayer infinately more.

It seems to me that Ministers and civil servants alike seem to forget that they work for us not us them and as taxpayers we require a more cost effective and sensible approach in the way in which they spend OUR money.

Malcolm Kerby (10 May 2004)

Flooding threat hangs over region

Byline: Tara Greaves, Eastern Daily Press

If things remain as they are, much of East Anglia’s coastline could disappear under water, according to a new Government-backed report published yesterday.

Only a change in policies, a cut in greenhouse gases and enhanced long-term flood management will help control a crisis of massive environ-mental and financial proportions, according to the Foresight Flood and Coastal Defence report.

Although the grim message is not new, the weight this report has been given is evident in the immediate action of the Government by using it as part of a draft Flood and Coastal Protection Plan, due out later this year.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Foresight project gathered the 60 experts in climate change, engineering and economics to examine possible risks for the UK from flooding and coastal erosion in the next 30 to 100 years.

Sarah Cornell, a senior researcher at the Tyndall Centre, based at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, was part of the team.

“Some of the report does make for grim reading but that is if things stay as they are or a worst-case scenario. We have to make sure people, and not just the Government, are part of the decision-making process for their own patch but also for the nation,” she said.

“The report shows that we have to make clear choices now to manage future flood risk. This includes reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, such as Norfolk’s CRed project is doing.”

It reveals that the cost of damage from flooding and coastal erosion in Britain could rise by 20 times over the next century – from about £1bn a year to more than £20bn by 2080.

Up to four million Britons could face the prospect of their homes being swallowed by water both from rivers and the sea, particularly in parts of low-lying East Anglia.

As well as the financial impact for residents – including being unable to insure property – there is also the damage to sites of natural beauty such as the Broads.

The report found that climate change and increased flooding could alter the effectiveness of drains and sewers in towns and cities, but it needs more research.

The Government currently spends £500m per year on flood management but in this report the emphasis is not solely on its shoulders but also local council planners, developers and the public.

Four scenarios, depending on things such as climate change, economic development and Government structure, have been put forward.

There is one certainty; things cannot stay the same because the risks grow to “unacceptable levels”.

And even in the best scenario for the next 75 years – where local people take control of their areas and manage floods with strong environmental and social control – the financial risk is still double what it is today, at £2bn a year.

Although it is a national report, the findings are particularly applicable to the east.

Dr Cornell added: “We looked back at flood and coastal defences in the past because we wanted to plan for the future. It is not a forecast for the UK in the sense of a weather forecast but what we wanted to do was put forward a set of what if? situations.

“From Yorkshire to Essex, communities are at risk of flooding because of sea-level and sinking land. In addition, our coasts are soft and vulnerable to erosion and storms can also have unexpected impacts, as seen with the big flood of 1953.”

Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientist, said: “This Foresight report is the most wide-ranging analysis of future flood risk ever made in the UK. Flooding can have a devastating effect on people’s homes and businesses. There are currently about £200bn worth of assets and 1.7 million properties in flood-risk areas in England and Wales.

“The scenarios in the Future Flooding report may seem a long way off, but the challenge of increased flood risk needs to be considered now.”

It is something the Government is obviously taking seriously, having already used findings of the report.

Elliot Morley, Environment Minister, said: “Managing future flood risk, including the latest climate-change predictions, is a challenge Defra is addressing as it works on its new strategy for flood and coastal protection.

“Foresight’s important predictive insights mean that part of Defra’s work is already done – the report’s conclusions will be incorporated into the draft strategy, to be published for consultation later this year.

“Government spending on flood and coastal defence has risen significantly in the last three years and the UK is firmly committed to combating climate change. But this very useful what if? report underlines the need for the Government’s flood-management programme to keep evolving to face up to new potential risks and challenges.”

The Government has no legal obligation to defend property or land and the only way it will intervene is when it is “sustainable” to do so and where the defence is “economically, technically and environmentally sound”.

Developers and those who work in the building industry have also welcomed the report.

Chris Ward, director in charge of hydrology for TA Millard consulting engineers, based in Norwich, said: “I welcome this report. I think it says what hydrologists and engineers have been saying for years. One of the East Anglian angles is coastal realignment – where the coastline is not defended and there is a managed retreat – which is particularly unpopular in areas like Happisburgh. Although the report makes some comments about it, it does not say whether it is in favour of it or not – just that it is in the tool kit as something that can mitigate the effects of flooding.”

An on-going action plan has been drawn up which also involves making use of the report in specific parts of the country.

The full report can be found at www.foresight.gov.uk

April 2004 Update

Anyone who listened to the radio 4 programme Costing The Earth broadcast last week surely can be left in no doubt that marine aggregate dredging is extremely harmful to our marine environment and holds significant responsibility for the massive increase in coastal erosion around our shores. In Europe there is no doubt of its harmful effects, indeed the Dutch who it is acknowledged are the masters of coastal defence, simply will not allow aggregate dredging in waters less than 20 meters deep and within 25 Km of the shore, ironically they fulfil their requirement for aggregates by buying them in from British dredging companies. Contrast this with the UK Government who actively encourage dredging within 6Km of Great Yarmouth. DEFRA were recently asked to comment on the Eurosion document which addresses such issues and highlights North Norfolk among other areas. Their comment was :

“We are considering the reports from the Eurosion project. If it emerges that they have significant new evidence then we will clearly give this careful consideration. However it is our understanding that the project has not conducted any new field work and is probably relying on previously published material.”

So it would appear our Government, particularly the responsible Minister have been extremely economical with the truth. His answer to the question, does offshore aggregate dredging have an impact on coastal erosion? Is always very careful, very guarded, short and quite meaningless: “There is no evidence.”

Why do you say there is no evidence Minister?

Have you deliberately avoided looking for it?

Is it being suppressed by Government that they may continue to receive their approx. £1,000,000 per week revenue from off the Norfolk Coast (more if other areas are included)?

Do you have evidence which has been buried because some fool somewhere has decided it is not in the national interest to allow it into the public domain?

Has there been a deliberate policy to suppress evidence?

Is it Blair, Beckett, Morley, Prescott (whose department licences and permits dredging) or the civil service withholding any previously published evidence?

Why is the DEFRA Chief Engineer a director of one of the leading consultancy companies used by Government in the process of granting dredging licences?

The whole DEFRA approach and response to coastal erosion and its associated socio-economic problems is seriously flawed, extremely unfair, totally biased and is a huge disservice to this nation in both economic and physical terms.

Since meeting with Elliot Morley in his Office on 13th May 2003 I have spoken with officers from three different maritime authorities. Privately they agree with many of our views, publicly they dare not express those views for fear of being ‘drummed out’ by DEFRA as it would appear happened in North Norfolk some years ago.

The whole set up and system stinks, the deeper I look, the more I learn, the smellier it gets.

Stop the dredging now and start addressing some of the problems it has caused.

Finally to return to Costing The Earth it was, shall we say, interesting to hear Dr. Ian Selby’s pathetic attempts to justify marine aggregate dredging (he is employed by one of the largest dredging companies) saying that offshore dredging is “benign” in its effects! Come on Dr. Selby you appear to be making the same mistake as DEFRA in believing that we area all stupid out here in the real world! Obviously we wasted a great deal of money on somebody’s education.

It is becoming increasingly evident that marine aggregate dredging is about as benign in its effects on the marine and coastal environment as a Kalishnikov bullet is when hitting the flesh of its intended target!

Malcolm Kerby (13 April 2004)

April 2004 Comments

Having attended two conferences in recent weeks namely the CLA organised ‘On The Brink’ at Barnham Broom Norfolk and the National Flood Forum Second Annual Conference in Birmingham, I am left with mixed feelings and emotions.

The ‘On The Brink’ gathering was indeed excellent as it highlighted what we are facing in terms of global warming and other environmental changes. From that came how little our Government appears to be doing or even planning to combat those inevitable changes i.e. sea level rise and weather patterns, in coastal defence terms. If central Government continues on it’s chosen path many people could be facing disaster even in the short to medium term.

The NFF gathering in Birmingham was also an excellent event. Although concerned mainly with fluvial flooding there was some discussion on coastal defence / erosion. There was a strong feeling that if we are going to actually manage our coastal defences there must be a statutory means to address the current lack of compensation for those businesses and homeowners who lose everything as a result of the defensive line being moved landward, as is happening in Happisburgh.

What did come over to me loud and clear through both of these events is just how inadequate the Coast Protection Act 1949 is. The 1949 Act, which in itself was a revamp of the 1939 Act, was placed on statute 55years ago. Long before global warming and tectonic plate movement (where the North West of the UK is rising and the South East is sinking. Something to do with glacial rebound I believe) were ever thought of. We are currently attempting to manage and mitigate twenty first century problems with a rather blunt mid twentieth century instrument and the chaos of a multi agency approach, Happisburgh is a glaring example of this.

There was some discussion about offshore aggregate dredging and it was interesting to note that at least one speaker in an ‘official’ capacity admitted that “ We really don’t know” when referring to the effects of dredging on coastal erosion. I also note that more and more voices are supporting my call for a moratorium on aggregate dredging until we do know the full consequences. That seems to me to be the only sensible way forward. Happisburgh cliffs are eroding five times faster than expert prediction, more in specific areas, this quite clearly is not the result of natural process.

It is Central Government, DEFRA, who block all progress in the defence of Happisburgh and the Northern Norfolk Broads, yet they make a profit of approx. £1,000,000 per week every week from offshore aggregate dredging off the Norfolk Coast alone. That means over the five years (or 260 weeks) CCAG has been in existence Central Government have made some £260 million profit from our assets and indeed our sacrifices (26 properties already lost) having spent absolutely nothing on our protection! I would welcome justification of the foregoing in moral as well as economic terms from Messrs Blair, Brown, Prescott, Beckett and Morley.

Finally I would cordially extend my belated best wishes to the DEFRA Chief Engineer Reg Purnell for his 58th Birthday on 15th (the Ides) of March.

Malcolm Kerby (05 April 2004)

‘Rising sea levels are inevitable’

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

A host of UK and European experts were in Norfolk yesterday in an effort to thrash out some of the thorny issues surrounding climate change, sea level rise and coastal erosion.

Speakers with differing perspectives gave presentations at the On the Brink conference at Barnham Broom Hotel, near Norwich.

Issues raised included overviews of the impact of carbon-dioxide emissions on the environment, the increasing potential for extreme sea levels in the manner of 1953, the relationship between offshore dredging and increased coastal erosion, sediment movement and erosion case studies from Norfolk.

There were contributions from academics working at the University of East Anglia, the Environment Agency, plus experts from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, and a perspective from landowners in Essex.

The event was organised by the County Landowners and Business Association (CLA).

Repeated reference was made to examples of erosion and sea defence works in Norfolk, including Happisburgh, Sea Palling, Salthouse, Brancaster and Scratby.

Several of the speakers had taken the opportunity on Wednesday to visit several of these sites so they could see the impacts of climate change and coastal erosion policies in Norfolk.

David Viner, of the UEA climatic research unit, attempted to dispel what he described as some of the myths surrounding climate change, and discussed various future scenarios and what bearing those scenarios would have on the world.

“We are committed to sea level rise for many centuries, even if emissions stop now,” he warned.

Maria Russo, from the Hadley Centre for climate prediction and research in Devon, said extreme surge events would be much more likely in the future, but that it was necessary to develop better predictive models and improve the understanding of the climate system.

Jane Rawson of the Environment Agency touched on a number of issues, including sediment movement, the difference between flood defence and coast protection, and offshore dredging. The subject of offshore dredging, which some have claimed has a direct effect on coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coast, came up several more times during the day-long conference.

Coastal defence shocks experts

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

Happisburgh’s sea defences have been badly managed and the shingle bank at Salthouse is in the wrong place, according to a European coastal defence expert visiting Norfolk yesterday.

A number of academics speaking at a conference near Norwich today toured several Norfolk erosion hotspots yesterday to get an idea of the county’s problems.

Among the group were three European specialists from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

They visited Salthouse, Happisburgh and Sea Palling, accompanied by members of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who are involved in the organisation of today’s On the Brink conference at Barnham Broom Country Club. The conference will address the issues of sea level rise and coastal defences in the southern North Sea.

Viewing the situation at Happisburgh yesterday afternoon, Karsten Reise, whose main interest is coastal policy in Germany, explained why he was taken aback by the state of the sea defences in front of him and at Salthouse.

“I was amazed by the shingle, amazed that any trust has been given to this sort of structure,” said Dr Reise.

“It seems any winter storm might push this structure aside. It is in the wrong place and should be realigned closer to the housing area.”

Turning his attention to Happisburgh, he said: “This coast has been destroyed by misplaced hard coastal defences.

“With enough foresight, one could have known you can’t use hard coastal defences in an area with sediment deficiency.”

Dr Reise also said that, in Germany, there was compensation available to those who lost property to coastal erosion. There is no such compensation in the UK.

Other experts visiting the coast yesterday included Marinka Kiezebrink from the Netherlands, who will speak about coastal policy in her home country today.

She outlined the importance to the Netherlands of sand nourishment – where sand is brought in from the sea bed and used as a defence mechanism.

Dr Kiezebrink will discuss the Dutch experience with coastal risk management, coastal policy and the developments in that policy.

Michael Sayer, CLA executive member, said he would like to see the issues surrounding sea level rise and coastal defence “unbundled”.

“All the different issues are important, but we need to stop confusing them.”

Mr Sayer said he hoped the conference would encourage the reassessment of sea defence policy.

He will also give a presentation addressing the various issues at Norfolk sites, including Brancaster, Salthouse, Happisburgh and Sea Palling.

Happisburgh garages could fall into sea

Byline: Ed Foss, Eastern Daily Press

Three garages on the cliff edge at Happisburgh will be the next victims of the village’s long running saga of coastal erosion.

The buildings, which all belong to the brick-built houses on Beach Road, will be pulled down by council workmen in the coming few days. The news was confirmed to residents in a meeting with North Norfolk District Council officers yesterday.

Householders have been moving belongings out of the garages in preparation for the work.

Around three metres of cliff have been lost to the sea since Christmas, leaving the garages teetering dangerously close to the edge.

Before they fall to the beach, the council has a health and safety obligation to remove them.

Thanks to a pledge made at a council meeting some months ago, the council will fund the work. Otherwise there would have been the fear that the residents would have to stump up the cost themselves.

“It’s a big step for us, as it’s the first time anything on our property has been demolished,” said home and teashop owner Di Wrightson, who has lived on Beach Road for 23 years.

“It’s a very unpleasant feeling and we feel very let down by the system.

“We are still hoping to get another season in with the business, but we don’t really know how long it will be before we have to move out of the house.”

Residents have asked the district council to adopt a “sympathetic” approach to the demolition and to avoid using heavy machinery, which they believe could exacerbate rates of erosion near the cliff edge.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of Happisburgh’s Coastal Concern Action Group, said: “This is a sad sad day, which I hoped would never happen.

“But for every brick and tile that is lost, we will redouble our efforts.

Mr Kerby maintained that the blame for the ongoing situation in Happisburgh lay at the door of Government rather than with the district council.

The council’s head of law and property Peter Frew said demolition was likely next week. He added that plans were being considered to move temporary rocks around to improve defences, but this was unlikely to happen until mid March due to tides, access and availability of machinery.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb described the news as a “sharp human reminder of the impact of neglect”.

January 2004 Comments

The storm of December 21st. caused yet more significant losses at Happisburgh, I remain utterly confirmed in the belief that our problems are, in the main, man made.

I have before me the Crown Estates Licensed Dredging Areas Index of Plans. There are seven areas around the UK coast where dredging is taking place. In every one of those areas there are extremely significant coastal erosion problems! The sheer scale of this dredging activity is absolutely mind boggling. Aggregate extraction from off the Norfolk coast alone has depleted the marine environment by a staggering 114,087,993 Tonnes over the period 1992—2002 inclusive!! Little wonder then that Happisburgh’s erosion problem has increased over app. the same period by two orders of magnitude. To give an indication of the profit HM Government makes from this dredging activity in the form of royalty income, here are the latest figures for the past five years, remember this is from off the Norfolk coast alone there are six other areas for which I do not have the figures.

  • 1998 £4.44 Million
  • 1999 £4.77 Million
  • 2000 £6.16 Million
  • 2001 £5.36 Million
  • 2002 £5.29 Million

This totals for a five year period £26.02 Million. Over the same period Government spending on coast defences in North Norfolk was £1,190,243!! Not one penny of that at Happisburgh.
Suddenly one can begin to understand why our Government is a tad economical with the truth, why they desperately do not want the subject of offshore dredging mentioned or discussed. I most fervently hope that we do not find any politicians either Non Executive Directors, Consultants or in the Lobbying employ of the dredging companies.

Also it becomes easier to see why DEFRA use such an inadequate, over complex system of so called Criteria and Point Score for the application of Grant Aid for coast defences. It’s all smoke and mirrorsintended to create confusion amongst the public whilst they divert funds inland. Coastal Communities are being discriminated against on purely financial grounds. That is morally indefensible, a complete betrayal of millions of coastal dwellers all around this Nation and surely cannot be legal ! To all coastal communities around our shores particularly those adjacent to dredging activity, I would say you, just like Happisburgh are being thoroughly stitched up by HM Government.

I would urge everyone to write to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott demanding a moratorium be placed on offshore dredging immediately and remain in place until either a Public Enquiry or thorough comprehensive, independent study has determined the cause and effect on coastal erosion of offshore aggregate dredging. to date no such enquiry or study has been undertaken !

We cannot allow this situation to continue. Ruined coast defences MUST be replaced. Compensation MUST be paid, as is demonstrated here, the money IS available to facilitate these things.

Above all dredging MUST cease until we have the definitive answers to the problems increasingly associated with it.

Malcolm Kerby (07 January 2004)

November 2003

One of the questions put to the officials with whom we met in Brussels was: “Does offshore aggregate dredging and extraction have any impact on coastal erosion?” The reply indicated that it most certainly does! Over the Last 5 years our Government has received in royalty income from dredging and extraction from off the North Norfolk coast a staggering £26.02 million pounds.

Over the last 5 years the total amount spent by our Government on coast protection throughout North Norfolk is £1,190,243 None of which was spent on Happisburgh.

In spite of the obvious and direct correlation between dredging and coastal erosion our Government has not commissioned any study into the impact of offshore dredging on coastal erosion. So our Government is granting and extending dredging licenses with absolutely no knowledge of the consequences.

This can only be described as hugely irresponsible and a complete betrayal of the people’s trust. That irresponsibility and betrayal might have been a little more palatable if they had spent the £26.02 million on our coast defences but they have not.

CCAG is not able to claim that dredging is responsible either in whole or in part for the massive coastal erosion problems throughout North Norfolk, in particular Happisburgh, equally the Government cannot claim that dredging is not responsible because neither CCAG or our Government have commissioned a proper effective study of the effects of dredging.

There should now be a moratorium placed on dredging until a proper, effective, comprehensive study has been made. This is the very least a responsible, moral Government should do, immediately!

Remember the figures over the last 5 years dredging off the Norfolk coast Government profit £26.02 million. Government spend on coast protection less than £1.2 million

Many centuries ago the Vikings arrived on our shores and thus the popular phrase, rape and pillage entered our vocabulary. The Vikings raped and pillaged our coastal settlements but, it seems, on nothing near the scale that our own Government is today.

Malcolm Kerby (10 November 2003)