Byline: Eastern Daily Press
A lifeboat crew has “moved house” to a temporary station – but any hopes of them returning home hinge on a crunch meeting with the Minister next month. The Happisburgh crew have been forced to shift their boat a mile eastwards to Cart Gap after coastal erosion destroyed their launching ramp. Spokesman Phil Smith said they would love to return to the original station – but it could only happen if the ramp was rebuilt. Although work is under way building a £45,000 footpath link to the beach, for safety reasons, a larger ramp would cost around double that – and needed to be part of a sea defence scheme, otherwise it would just get washed away again, explained North Norfolk District Council geomorphologist Gary Watson. Any hopes of getting a scheme off the ground however may lie with a meeting between local campaigners and Environment Minister Elliot Morley – scheduled for May 13. The Coastal Concern Action Group has been leading calls for replacement of worn-out defences at the east end of the village, where a series of chalets have fallen over the crumbling cliffs, and now brick-built homes are in danger as a bay bites further into the coastline. But efforts have fallen foul of a string of problems, including Government policy which demands that the value of the land and property being saved outweighs the cost of any scheme. Group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said they would be using the meeting to call on the Government reassess the last failed scheme – as red tape delays had contributed to its downfall – as well as quizzing the Minister on wider issues of the nation’s “shambolic” coastal defence policy. “It’s real chance to pit our case to the man responsible – face-to-face, and we will be taking him some striking aerial pictures for his walls,” said Mr Kerby. As well as the London meeting, arranged by local MP Norman Lamb, campaigners were also meeting Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff on April 15 – to see if there was any European human rights case to be brought against the Government for failing to protect people’s homes. In the meantime the old Happisburgh lifeboat station will remain in use for on-shore training and meetings, and summer souvenir sales. The new station, in a pair of portable buildings, would also welcome a new £20,000 boat in June. It will be one of the first of a new fleet of IB1 inshore boats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and will be named in October at Berkshampsted, in Hertfordshire, in recognition of the RNLI branch which raised the funds for it. This weekend Nick Cox, the son of the Station Honorary Secretary, will be running in the London Marathon as part of the RNLI team to raise money in order to offset some of the £25,000 it has cost to set up the new temporary station at Happisburgh. Anyone wishing to sponsor him should contact Cedric Cox on 01692 650727.