Byline: (North Norfolk News, 24 January 2008)
East of England minister Barbara Follett toured the north Norfolk coast on Monday on an information gathering visit – and pledged to “nag, coordinate and prod” on behalf of communities facing coastal erosion and saline flooding.
Calling at Cromer, Overstrand, Mundesley, Bacton, Walcott and Happisburgh, Mrs Follett was accompanied by local politicians, North Norfolk District Council officers and representatives of bodies such as Go East and the Environment Agency.
Standing on the clifftop at Happisburgh next to the village’s former lifeboat ramp, one of the many victims of erosion along the coastline, Mrs Follett said she was “fairly shocked” at what she saw.
“I am here to see for myself how badly the sea has encroached and how much we are losing,” she said.
“The sea surge of November taught me a great deal about it and this visit will teach me more.
“We are facing a world wide problem and we have to look at how best to manage that problem up here in north Norfolk.”
Mrs Follett said financing and funding was “not the totality of the problem”, but needed to be backed up by making the right decisions at the right times.
“It is about coordination; the regional minister’s role to some extent is nagging, coordinating and prodding. In this unique position I can sometimes bring more to the table.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the benefit of the visit was to create a dialogue between local communities and the government.
“We need to defend communities as best we can and where we can’t, the people affected must be treated with justice.”
The council’s coastal portfolio holder Clive Stockton said: “What we want to do is show the minister and inform her of our situation.
“There are a lot of different bodies involved in this issue and different departments within those bodies. We all need coordination between all of those people and authorities.
“We need a coordinated management policy for changing coastlines.
“Here in north Norfolk we are a small district council, but a national player on this issue. We need the help of the region behind us.”
The council’s head of coastal strategy Peter Frew said it was important to “get the proper linkage between the different pieces of government”.
And Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group, said Mrs Follett had demonstrated a very good understanding of the importance of drawing together the many different arms of government.