November 2008 – London, Reading and Holland

This has indeed been an extremely busy week.

Environment Agency

On Tuesday 25th Nov I was part of a contingent from North Norfolk which met with Lord Smith of Finsbury, the recently appointed Chairman of the Environment Agency (EA), along with the recently appointed Chief Executive Paul Leinster and senior staff.

The meeting was requested and organised by Norman Lamb M.P. our local Member of Parliament. I was also pleased to see Tony Wright M.P. (Great Yarmouth) present.

It was very heartening to hear Lord Smith acknowledge the extreme problems for individuals and communities faced with a change of current coast protection policy and it’s application.

Good to hear from him that he believes the EA must pursue the matter of compensation for those affected , something CCAG has been calling for over many years. Along with this Lord Smith expressed a strong desire to switch the perception that the EA is undertaking a broad policy of abandonment of defences in many areas to one of trying to hold the line where possible.

DEFRA

From London I went to Reading where, on Wednesday, I took part in a DEFRA workshop on adaptation measures. This was one of a number I have attended and very much put the peoples view. These events are attended by representatives from a wide spectrum of government departments. We shall have to wait and see what form government’s adaptation package will take, however I can certainly say that all departments are now aware of the problems and hardship faced by individuals and communities on the coast which the present coastal policy is causing.

Holland

From Reading I went directly to Holland for a series of fact finding meetings with relevant government departments and experts responsible for Dutch coast protection and water management. The trip was organised by Coastnet (www.coastnet.org.uk ) who act as secretariat on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coastal and Marine issues. The British contingent was Norman Lamb MP, North Norfolk (Chairman APPG), Graham Stuart MP, Beverley and Holderness (Vice Chairman APPG), Dr Theresa Reading (Coastnet) and myself (CCAG, external member APPG).

The day started at the Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat with an excellent presentation from their team and much discussion with many questions from us.

We then moved on to Delft with presentations from senior engineers and coastal specialists at Deltares NL, a consultancy of world wide renown situated almost within the campus of Delft University. Again excellent presentations and many questions from us over a very welcome lunch.

Next stop was the Headquarters of Provincie Zuid Holland one of the major provincial government centres with a population of approximately 7 million people and responsibility for a major section of the coast. Yet again an excellent presentation and many questions. From there to the Dutch Parliament where we met with a Member of Parliament, this of course was of particular interest to our two MPs.

That concluded the day from which I arrived back in North Norfolk in the very early hours of Friday morning.

My overall impression is that the Dutch have a much more positive approach to living with the sea and coast protection than exists within the UK.

Perhaps this was best demonstrated in the reply to being asked “What will you do about a possible one metre rise in sea levels post 2050?” The response was both calm and assured “We will deal with it.” And one is left in no doubt they will, with consummate success, rather than the throw the towel in and retreat now approach which seems to pervade and typify the UK response to the same problem.

The Dutch pay full compensation to homeowners etc when sacrifices have to be made in the wider National interest. Indeed I was most surprised having asked the question “In which legal framework is your policy of paying full compensation rooted, is it Dutch Law or European Law?” We were told “In Holland it is unthinkable to not pay compensation so there is no need for a legal framework, it is automatic“.

Little wonder then that they are world leaders in coast protection with an investment of some 1.6 billion euros this year alone they are able to manage their coast in a socially just and extremely effective manner. Along with this their standard of defences is so much higher, for example: Relatively thinly populated rural areas have a one in 1250 year event standard. In this country not even London gets that level of protection at one in 1000 year event standard.

The major centres of population in Holland continue to enjoy protection to a one in 10,000 year event standard which they are giving very serious thoughts to increasing ten fold.

In offshore dredging, which they do allow, they have only one strictly enforced rule: NO dredging in any area with a depth of twenty metres or less.

Much more information was forthcoming on the day, however I can do no better than quote Norman Lamb MP “There is a compelling logic to applying the Dutch approach to the UK“.

Finally my thanks go to the APPG and Coastnet for making this excellent fact finding trip possible with special thanks to all our Dutch hosts and their teams for such a warm and courteous welcome. All presentations and discussions were conducted in English not Dutch, very humbling and much appreciated.

Malcolm Kerby (29 November 2008)

October 2008 Update – Chris Smith Visit

I note from recent press and media reports the various comments made by Lord Smith when visiting Suffolk. The problem is, just as the Minister did when he came to North Norfolk in July, he has said nothing that changes the situation one iota.

As far as I can see it was an exercise in saying we are not going to defend much of our coast in what the politicians would deem a much more user friendly way. In many ways it was the usual political spin particularly when referring to increased funding for flood and coast protection.

There was no mention of the fact that the Environment Agency (EA) which he now chairs spent £67million pounds of our money running its Head Office last year and the true facts about funding were seemingly avoided. FACT, the funding allocation for Flood and Coast Protection (F&CP) for the three year period commencing 6th April 2008 is £2.15billion of which only £110million (just 5%) is allocated to be shared between the 92 Maritime Authorities plus the Internal Drainage Boards for Coast Protection. That is a dramatic reduction of funding for the coast, not as they would have us believe an increase.

He did not mention that currently for every pound of OUR money given to the EA for F&CP app. 65p goes on admin and only 35p goes into actual works. That is a National disgrace.

What we all need is to hear the politicians who hold responsibility will stem the systemic waste in the various Departments and Agencies involved in F&CP, will significantly increase funding for the coast and achieve something approaching value for money for the taxpayer. That which is sorely lacking at the moment.

He also failed to mention his Government has just given £75million to another country to help them with their “adaptation to climate change” whilst we, whose money it is anyway, only get £30million spread over three years for “adaptation to climate change” !!

He did mention though that he found the prospect of people and communities funding or part funding their own protection from the sea “exciting”. I bet he did. Is that not utopia for any Government. Getting people to pay twice for their rights, once through the tax system and again themselves.

I say again if we continue with present coastal governance, policy and underfunding we are very much set on a path which will most definitely lead to coastal chaos in the not too distant future. As can be seen it is beginning now.

We must all stand together and absolutely demand better value for our money. We can live without the dreaded SPIN, let us deal with the facts !!

Let us say to all who hold responsibility for the management of our coast stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes and get on with managing our coast for sound, best practice coast management rationale and stop managing for fiscal reasons alone.

Malcolm Kerby (31 October 2008)

October 2008 Comments

As can be seen from the recent newspaper report in the Eastern Daily Press the Government (in the form of their quangos Environment Agency and Natural England) have changed their stance on DIY coast protection / defences.

This change has come about, I suspect, as a direct result of the case brought by one Easton Bavents (Suffolk) resident who was ordered by Natural England (NE) to cease defending the cliff in front of his home.

The resulting investigation found NE to be in breach of that homeowner’s Human Rights under The Human Rights Act 1998 as they did not offer the homeowner compensation along side the order to cease defending. Presumably had they offered or paid him compensation they could then, and only then, enforce the order.

That case showed the Government a different way forward, they concluded they could wriggle out of their coast protection/defence responsibilities without falling foul of the Human Rights Act or paying compensation simply by telling people that whilst Government would no longer pay for coast defences people could do it themselves at their own expense if they wished. The possibility of anyone being able to do that is of course quite remote. So once again Government gets it’s way at no cost to itself.

To me this latest approach by Government and it’s quangos is a shifty, callous, irresponsible piece of sharp practice which is at odds with Government’s bounden duty of care to ALL the people.

There is huge and mounting dissatisfaction amongst the public (taxpayers) with current and proposed governance of the coast.

As can be seen with the Blyth Estuary Strategy consultation is meaningless and the peoples wishes are ignored. WHY?

Have we forgotten that it is the people who pay for everything. It is the people who employ Government, it’s quangos, Ministers and Civil Servants, they all work for us. Not us for them! Why then do they continue to pursue coastal policies and outcomes which are so at odds with the needs and wishes of the people ?

Only one conclusion can be drawn, that we are not managing the coast either in the interests of the people or for sound, effective, good coast management rationale. It is being done for purely fiscal reasons. Quite simply Government has decided, for it’s own interests, it simply does not wish to spend our money on the coast. Funding has been reduced year on year and is now lower than it has been for a considerable time.

The governance and policies being rigorously pursued and applied on the coast is massively increasing risk to people and the built and natural environment. That is now undeniable.

As many will know I have attended quite a number of public gatherings and discussions about the management of our coast. The public finds the current approach from Government extremely difficult to understand, among the most frequently asked questions and statements are:

  1. How can they ( the Government) justify spending billions of pounds of our money on what many people believe was an illegal incursion into the Middle East and yet refuse to defend their own people from the sea? And more recently:
  2. How can they ( the Government) justify giving £75 million to a foreign country to help fund their adaptation to climate change, yet only allocate £30 million toward our own adaptation to climate change?
  3. How can they (the Government) justify spending Billions and Billions of pounds of our money bailing out Banks whose demise has been brought about by their own inept business decisions, greed and excess, compounded by paying themselves bonuses with money they never really had. Yet continue to abandon coastal communities through lack of funding?
  4. What good is a Human Rights Act which seemingly fails to protect many peoples rights to live without being discriminated against or enjoy the most basic Human Right of living in peace with the ability to enjoy, without interference, their possesions, home and family life?

These four FAQs are not necessarily the views of either myself or CCAG. However they are voiced (amongst others) by an increasing number of people.

There is no doubt that our coast has been evolving over millenia and will continue to do so, coastal change is not a new phenomena. There seems little doubt now that the combined effects of Global Warming, Sea Level Rise, Climate Change and Isostatic Rebound may have a profound effect on the coast as we move through this century. What will matter at least as much as those factors themselves is how we manage our way through.

If we continue as we are with current institutional structures and massive underfunding I fear there can only be one outcome for the coast and it’s people. Chaos on an unprecedented scale with many coastal inhabitants and communities completely disenfranchised, maybe not by the combined efects of climate change etc., but by their own Government.

We who live on the coast understand very well we are an island nation and coast protection is expensive. We also understand the expense and cost of not protecting, whereas our Government refuses to countenance the cost of it’s no active intervention or managed realignment policies.

Malcolm Kerby (21 October 2008)

September 2008 Comments

It has been a considerable time since I last made comment since then little has changed on the Policy front although I am aware that much is going on behind the scenes

I have done much work on ensuring the key players are very much aware of the grief and hardship their abortive management of our coast is causing to an ever increasing number of people.

Now I have no doubt DEFRA, the Environment Agency (EA), Natural England (NE) and even the Treasury are fully aware of the effects of that abortive management policy on individuals and communities all around our coast.

Anyone who wants to learn where and when this policy fiasco started should read an article published in the New Scientist magazine , issue 1854 on 2nd January 1993

More recently there is a very clear indication of the low priority afforded to people, their homes and businesses in stark contrast to the very high priority afforded to flora and fauna. One need look no further than the minutes of the EA Board Meeting which took place on the 10th July 08 at North Lakes Hotel Penrith ( I bet that cost us a few bob ).

On page 7 is paragraph 27 I quote :

“The Board questioned the relatively low standard of protection along much of the Happisburgh to Winterton frontage ( 1:20 ). It was explained that this standard of protection is appropriate for natural habitats, which NE has indicated would recover with that frequency of inundation”. Please note, no mention of people and their homes or communities and whether they could cope with being inundated by the sea every 20 years or so. Need I say more ?

What they consistantly choose to ignore is the inescapable fact that there has been absolutely no Government money spent on protection at Happisburgh for app 48 years!! WHY?

NE of course is Government’s latest Quango and I have read some of the utterances of their Chief Executive and quite honestly her views frighten me witless. Can anyone tell me what role NE is supposed to fill other than their achievment thus far which seems to be making the lives of mankind on the coast much worse and thoroughly miserable?

Oh well I suppose we should blame the blithering idiots who created NE and gave them their remit which, as all involved will tell you and use as a kind of get out clause, does not include Homo Sapiens or his habitat. That, in my view, was an error of enormous proportions which I suspect will haunt coastal dwellers for many a year yet. Is man not as much a part of the natural environment as any other species?

Various Government Ministers their Aides and Quangos have repeated ad nauseum the two phrases which are guaranteed to set my hackles going. They are “we must achieve maximum value for the taxpayer” (as if they would have any idea of what that means ) and when deciding to abandon defences and communities “we cannot justify the expenditure to the wider taxpayer”. With those comments in mind I have spent months looking at some of the figures behind the facade of the EA. Early indications are that only a relatively small amount of our money given to them for Flood and Coast Protection is actually spent on allieviation works the bulk of it appears to be going on running the EA itself. Indeed it appears that money wasting by the various Departments, Agencies and Quangos is both systemic and significant.

I leave you to ponder the fact that my figures show that the EA head office alone cost you and me (the wider taxpayer) £67million last year. If and when I get other figures confirmed I shall bring them to you.

Malcolm Kerby (25 September 2008)

Cash possible for homes lost to the sea

Byline: By Ed Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 19 August 2008)

People faced with losing their homes to coastal erosion or flooding by the North Sea last night welcomed a breakthrough in their fight for financial compensation.

A senior government adviser, the new chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith of Finsbury, yesterday urged the government seriously to consider using taxpayers’ money to re-house those who lose out to the encroaching sea.

It is the first time anyone of such standing has responded to the pleas of homeowners not to be left empty-handed after the sea claims their homes.

His comments were given a general welcome by those living on the brink of coastal erosion, although they stressed the need for speedy action and said the government was guilty of “ongoing ambiguity” over many issues linked with the management of the coast.

Di Wrightson, who lives within yards of the receding cliff edge at Happisburgh and is likely to have to move out of her home in the coming months, said she felt the wheels of government would almost certainly move too slowly to help her, but welcomed the fact the subject of compensation had finally reached the top table of government.

“I really do think they are considering compensation now – and so they should, people are set to lose what they have worked their entire lives for, having been told when they bought their houses they would be protected,” she said.

There have been increasing calls by homeowners for compensation to cushion the blow of losing their homes to the sea as the government attempts to move from a policy of holding the line to one of managed retreat along many parts of the coast.

Lord Smith, a former Labour cabinet minister, named north east Norfolk and Suffolk as being particularly at risk.

He did not make specific comment about the six Broads villages named in a recent, deeply controversial Natural England report which identified an option to allow 25 square miles of Norfolk to be abandoned to the sea – nor did he speak about specific communities such as Happisburgh, which has been at the forefront of coastal campaigning in recent years, or the Blyth Estuary, which is also threatened.

He also left many questions unanswered about the scale and timing of any compensation deals.

But his comments clearly had them in mind and were the first signs of hope for those who have campaigned for years to secure payments for those at risk from climate change and rising sea levels.

Lord Smith said ministers could no longer rely on insurance companies to cover families who lost their homes, suggesting they would have to be rehoused at the taxpayers’ expense.

“We need to start having a serious discussion with government about what options can be put in place,” said Lord Smith, who went on to say that the north east Norfolk and the Suffolk coastlines faced the most immediate danger.

Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group, a campaign body born from the problems faced in Happisburgh but which now has a reach into communities across the country and into several government bodies, said he “took tremendous heart” from Lord Smith’s words, but added that it was vital to avoid “false hope”.

Mr Kerby said the compensation debate was only in existence because the government wanted to introduce policy changes such as managed retreat, which were “utter madness”.

“To have someone at the top of the Environment Agency say these things shows that he accepts that if the government wants to pursue the policies it says it wants to pursue – which are folly in themselves – then there has to be compensation.

“We need a clear steer on this now, the ongoing ambiguity created by different statements from the likes of the Environment Agency, the minister Phil Woolas, Defra and Natural England is unfair on everyone.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “I am of course encouraged by the support for proper financial compensation for communities and individuals affected; it appears some headway is being made on this subject.

“But I have deep concerns about the fact people can’t play fast and loose with these communities, there is a danger that what Lord Smith has said will only serve to confuse people and his words beg many more questions than they answer.”

Lord Smith said the agency was already drawing up projections as to which areas of coast would be most at risk over the next 50 years.

£100m pledge to defend land from the sea

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 08 July 2008)

Norfolk is to stand firm against the ravages of the ever-encroaching North Sea for at least another half century after the government confirmed £100m will be spent on sea defences over the next 50 years.

People living in vulnerable coastal and low-lying areas of Norfolk breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after environment minister Phil Woolas gave reassurances their homes would not be left to flood.

Responding to worries over a Natural England draft report, which includes the option of allowing a 25sqm area of Norfolk to flood, Mr Woolas said the proposal was “not an option,” and stressed it was the government who drew up sea defence policy not Natural England.

As he visited the county to see the effect of coastal erosion and listen to local concerns Mr Woolas said the government was committed to keeping the sea at bay for at least the next 50 years and pledged £100m of investment in sea defences over that period.

The first phase of work, to be done by the Environment Agency, is set to begin as early as September and will include beach recharging at Sea Palling and Waxham and rock works between Horsey and Winterton.

Experts are also looking at longer- term options for maintaining the coastline well into the next century.

As he toured Hickling, Sea Palling and Happisburgh, Mr Woolas had some clear messages.

The coastline and the Broads would be protected for at least half a century and, though individuals whose houses were lost to cliff erosion would not receive compensation, communities will be given help to cope.

Mr Woolas said: “The scenario put forward by Natural England is not the flood defence policy of the government.

“I cannot see a situation where any elected government would allow the Norfolk Broads to flood.

“We have a very serious problem across the country where cliff erosion is taking away people’s homes.

“The government is putting together an adaption package. We will not be able to directly compensate people but we will ensure that the local community is protected.”

Mr Woolas said “adaption tool kits” would be devised to suit individual areas and could be used for things such as relocating vulnerable roads and businesses.

During his visit Mr Woolas met dozens of parish representatives at a closed meeting at Lessingham Village Hall.

After the meeting Mike Walker, from East Norfolk Coastal Parishes Group, said he was pleased by what the minister said and felt the possibility of Broadland ever being flooded had “receded significantly.”

He said Mr Woolas addressed two principle concerns: support for hard defences and reassurance that communities had “a medium to long- term future.”

Malcolm Kerby, from the Coastal Concern Action Group, based at Happisburgh, said Mr Woolas had demonstrated a “willingness to listen” and felt the public outcry over Natural England’s proposal had made a huge difference.

“I do not doubt that we have got such an unequivocal statement because of the pressure we put on,” he added.

Jane Archer, who, as reported in the EDP yesterday, was alarmed to discover her home was only worth £1 because it is so close to the crumbling cliffs at Happisburgh, also met the minister.

She said she was disappointed that she had not been able to get a straight answer on compensation from Mr Woolas.

But she felt she had been offered a “glimmer of hope” by the proposal for community adaption packages and an undertaking to look into the situation of those affected by changing government policy on coastal defence.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who accompanied the minister on his tour, said the minister’s comments on the Natural England proposals were a “substantial advance” and said he was encouraged that local people would be given a say in shaping coastal defence policy in the future.

But he said he still felt individuals should be compensated if they lose their homes to the sea.

“We cannot allow the people in the front line to absorb all the consequences of climate change,” he said.

Norfolk house valued at just £1

Byline: By Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 07 July 2008)

A campaigner who has been told her house is worth less than a loaf of bread will today try to show the man in charge of the nation’s sea defences the true human cost of the government’s coastal policies.

The bungalow Jane Archer and her partner bought as a happy family home 21 years ago is still 60m from the clifftop, but is now worth just £1.

Today when environment minister Phil Woolas makes a fact-finding visit to north Norfolk over erosion and flooding issues she will be among the people keen to show him the impact of the government policy of abandoning sea defences without any compensation.

“I will tell him he is destroying our lives,” said 49-year-old Ms Archer. “Lots of money is spent by the authorities compensating and finding new habitats for rare birds whose homes are threatened by climate and coastal management changes – but what about people? Are they just going to let my house fall over the edge of a cliff, and leave us with nothing?”

Mr Woolas is visiting Norfolk following the concerns of hundreds of other people living near the coast and in low-lying Broads villages which are vulnerable to erosion, and a controversial Natural England option of allowing six villages and 25 sq m of countryside to flood in the future because it is too difficult and costly to defend.

After seeing reef defences at Sea Palling he will attend a meeting with representatives from a range of communities, including Ms Archer, who is a founder member of the Coastal Concern Action Group formed in her home village of Happisburgh in a bid to fight government “managed retreat” policies and battle for a fair deal for those affected by it.

Also attending is North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb who said it should be a collective effort of society to pick up the bill for adjusting to climate change not people like Ms Archer who were “in the front line through a quirk of fate and having to bear all the cost themselves.”

He was encouraged that environment officials seemed more open to discuss impacts on communities, but remained concerned that the Treasury restrictions could hamper funding, and that there was a need for urgency to help other people like Ms Archer.

She and partner Chris Cutting bought their Beach Road bungalow for £20,000 in 1987, when it was 400m from the clifftop and there were no problems over a mortgage and survey.

But a road and several houses have been swallowed up by erosion in recent years, after the government refused to fund the replacement of aging sea defences, and promoted a policy of managed retreat, which abandons long-standing defences everywhere except the main resorts.

So when the couple tried to get a bank loan to expand their motor engineering business, seeking to use the house as security, the valuer’s report highlighted “chronic coastal erosion”, refused the loan and valued the bungalow at a paltry £1.

Mr Cutting said: “It is not as if the house was right on the edge of the cliff. But we are now left with a house that is worth nothing, and lost about £60,000 through the collapse of the business deal.”

The couple thought the house might be worth about £50,000-£60,000 when they applied for the loan nearly two years ago, when a nearby cottage sold for £89,000 and other three bedroomed rural homes were selling for up to £200,000.

“We were angry and frustrated when we told it was worth £1,” said Ms Archer. “We are stuck here. We are worse off than first time buyers, because we only have another 15 years of earning towards a mortgage before we retire, and we don’t want to rent and pay out again for housing having already paid off our existing mortgage.

“It is so unfair, because when we came here the policy was to maintain the defences,” said Ms Archer.

Action group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said tackling that unfairness was one of their key aims they would outline to Mr Woolas today.

“Forget all the fancy technical talk. This is the real effect of these policies on families.

“The government suggests people should move away from coastal areas because of climate change, but how can they if their home values are being hit.

“They cannot pursue these policies without ensuring there is social justice. People like Jane and Chris are being put in a ridiculous position.”

He suggested that properties affected by flood and erosion risk should be underwritten by the government so areas were not blighted, leaving properties and communities viable.

Adding the real value of buildings into the equation might also mean it became a cheaper option to protect rather than abandon.

Bishop joins coastal flood debate

Byline: By Dominic Chessum (Eastern Daily Press, 04 May 2008)

The Bishop of Norwich has waded into the debate over plans to sacrifice 25 square miles of Norfolk land to the sea.

Speaking at the launch of a new inshore lifeboat for Sea Palling, he said the proposal by Natural England could leave coastal communities feeling “like prisons from which there is no escape”.

Addressing a packed church in Sea Palling today, where he had come to bless the village’s new lifeboat, the Rt Rev Graham James said vibrant communities with spirit, such as the coastal village, were crucial and should not be made to feel unimportant.

But the Bishop would not be drawn on whether he himself would be making representations to Natural England, who drew up the plans which have cause such controversy, saying only that it was important community leaders represent local views.

The comments come ahead of a Commons debate on the flooding plans, when local MPs will be given their first chance to grill the government over the issue, and just days after Stuart Burgess, the government’s rural advocate, warned of the danger of the A12 flooding if sea defences on the Blyth Estuary are abandoned.

During the sermon the Bishop said he was delighted to be giving his blessing to the new lifeboat, named Lion’s Roar after one of the major donors to the £25,000 craft, Hoveton and Wroxham Lions club.

But he told the congregation: “You’ve been in the news, and not for any welcome reason. The problem with any long term plan to allow villages around here to be claimed by the sea is that it has given the impression that people don’t matter.

“The consequential planning blight could to make these coastal communities seem like prisons from which there is no escape. People do matter. Communities matter. And communities only prosper if they are loved.”

After the service the bishop joined lifeboat crewman aboard the boat as it was driven from the church to the beach where it was launched to great applause.

Speaking from the shore, as the boat’s three man crew performed manoeuvres for the crowd, he added: “A community like this which is able to do things like a voluntary lifeboat for the safety of others has an extraordinary spirit and it is quite understandable it feels threatened by these proposals.”

Prominent coastal campaigner Malcolm Kerby, from the Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group, said he was “delighted” with the bishop’s words.

“I really appreciate the bishop stepping into the ring,” he said.

“He is a very high powered and influential man and clearly he has chosen his words carefully but he is absolutely right.

“One of the things I have telling government is you simply cannot go around suggesting things because it does have a local effect. “There is a danger it could close off these communities.”

Since the EDP revealed the Natural England proposals in March thousands of people have attended three public meetings held on the issue, expressed their anger through letters and signed a petition drawn up by north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

The 90 minute debate parliamentary debate, which begins at 9.30am on Tuesday morning, will be on flood defences in Norfolk and will cover coastal and inland flooding across the county.

The debate can be viewed live at www.parliamentlive.tv

April 2008 – The Real Inconvenient Truth About Climate Change

It is extremely regrettable and highly possible that global warming, sea level rise and climate change will have little work to do in terms of wrecking our coast as we know it and the lives of all who live and work in the coastal zone as we progress through this century.

Our Government will already have done that long before we/they know or understand what the real extent the effects of climate change may be.

By assuming the worst and throwing away communities and land around our coast now we are not managing the problem we are abdicating our responsibilities to future generations and binding them into costs they may never have been forced to bear had we been more pragmatic in our approach today.

Already we have seen current Governance and policy effectively shut down many coastal communities and indeed many more inland of the littoral line (as in the Natural England proposals for the northern Norfolk Broads) causing unnecessary havoc and very severe adverse financial implications for those who live and work there.

Over the last 25-30 years Governments of both political persuasion have consistently and massively underfunded coast management resulting in the now critical and dangerous state of this Nation’s coast protection and sea defences. This is not just my view, it is referred to in the Foresight Study of 2004.

By neglecting to adequately fund the maintenance and improvement of the Nation’s protection from the sea over such an extended period we now face significant costs just to bring those defences up to today’s standards and even more to take account of any effects of climate change we may be facing, again this point was made in the Foresight Study.

Armed with this information the Government decided not to continue defending many areas thus saving a great deal of expense. This option is hugely attractive to Government because of the immensely biased way our coastal governance operates.

Under current rules if Government decides to withdraw from defending any part of the coast it does so at absolutely zero cost to itself. All costs are borne locally, no matter how significant those costs may be. At the moment Central Government steadfastly refuses to allow the real cost of not defending to be set against the cost of defending simply because to do this would prove beyond all doubt that defending is by far the cheaper (and perhaps more sustainable) option. So it all boils down to a very simple decision, to defend would cost Government money, to not defend costs them nothing.

Of the 2.15 billion pounds allocated for Flood and Coast Defence over the three year spending period which has just started this month only 110 million pounds (App.5% of the total) is allocated for coast protection to be shared amongst over 92 Maritime Local Authorities. Says it all really doesn’t it !!

Malcolm Kerby (26 April 2008)

April 2008 Comments – The national approach

Since this internet facility was launched in 2002 we have watched it grow and mature into both a national and international point of reference. Alongside this the problems experienced by Happisburgh are now being experienced at more and more locations around this country.

The list of communities falling victim to our Government’s mismanagement of our coast is growing.

It has become increasingly difficult to provide an adequate resource to other communities. In recent times I have been contacted by communities from as far afield as Cleveland and Yorkshire in the north to communities all along the south coast from Kent to Hampshire.

With this in mind we have launched a new website www.nvcc.org.uk to provide a National Voice for Coastal Communities with the sole aim of providing a facility where all affected areas and peoples can share their experiences and coast management problems to hopefully pull together and increase pressure on Government to adopt a more sensible and Socially Just form of coastal governance.

To illustrate why we have created this new facility, the CCAG site currently receives an average of 30,000 visits a month with 140,000 page impressions from over 60 countries.

This is a truly phenominal success rate and we hope the launch of the new facility will build on that.

Malcolm Kerby (19 April 2008)