Protect our coast, ministers urged

Worried coastal residents have been given new hope as council leaders defied the government over plans to let the sea swallow up clifftop communities in north Norfolk.

Leaders of North Norfolk District Council refused to sign up to the controversial shoreline management plan (SMP), which advocates "managed retreat" of all areas except the main towns.

The document is designed to outline how the coastline from Kelling to Lowestoft will be managed for the next 100 years.

Council chief executive Philip Burton said: "We will not sign the SMP. We are not going to be browbeaten by a fear of government grant being withdrawn. Ninety-nine per cent of people rejected the proposals, and that's our starting point."

Deputy leader Clive Stockton said: "There is no way we are going to sign up to the SMP unless it addresses the issues for the people of north Norfolk.

"If we cannot defend the entire coastline, there's got to be a managed situation where people are compensated and helped to get over losing everything they own."

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb agreed, and said: "I find it remarkable that the consultants can imagine that it's politically viable or indeed right for the council to support it, given the strength of feeling through the consultation process."

The defiance came as coastal residents promised "anarchy" after a last ditch bid to include the need for compensation in a key component of the SMP collapsed.

There was anger in April when a response to public consultation about the SMP overlooked more than 2,500 objections and brushed over the issue of compensation for residents who could lose their homes.

North Norfolk council was asked to add a foreword to the response by consultants Halcrow, spelling out the "social justice" issues.

But the attempt collapsed because the members of the officer-led client steering group involved could not agree the wording.

The group comprises north Norfolk, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Defra, the Environment Agency, English Nature and Great Yarmouth Port Authority.

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group, said: "I have already told the client group that if they publish this without the preface there will be anarchy.

"The whole thing is unacceptable as it stands. It should be withdrawn now and no further attempts made until social justice is built into it."