June 2003 Comments

Since the inception of CCAG and throughout this campaign I have at all times tried to represent Happisburgh at every level correctly, honourably and with absolute integrity. Of course it is not for me to judge whether I have achieved those ideals. What I can tell you is that we (CCAG) have made many friends along the way. Friends at all levels of the political spectrum. Friends in local press and media, I would pay particular tribute to the Eastern Daily Press and BBC Radio Norfolk, whose coverage has been accurate, objective, unbiased and Hugely appreciated.

Friends not only in press and media but also MAFF and DEFRA retired employees understanding what we are fighting for and totally support our cause. In one case a retired middle manager from MAFF / DEFRA with over 30 years service who has been at great pains to explain to me how the internal structure of this Government department really works and what makes them tick. Edifying knowledge I assure you. Friends from within the ranks of serving civil servants.

One of the greatest ongoing difficulties for me personally throughout the campaign has been the possession of knowledge and facts which must remain confidential until events slot into place. Then, and only then, can that information be put into the public domain.

One example of this is concerning the current DEFRA Chief Engineer, who when serving as our Regional Engineer allegedly made no secret of the fact that as long as he was around Happisburgh would not get hard sea defences. I was first made aware of this some two years ago and until now have chosen to keep it to myself. Recently however the same information has been imparted to me by a second and separate source. I would emphasise that these are allegations. However I do strongly feel that the chief engineer to whom we pay a significant salary to oversee our protection from the sea should clarify his position as it may or may not have a direct bearing on the appalling state of coastal defences we suffer at Happisburgh today.

What I know for certain is upon my recent meeting with the Minister and Chief Engineer I did detect a somewhat adversarial attitude toward District Council emanating from the Chief Engineer. This seems to have been borne out at a recent meeting of DEFRA Chief Engineer and Local Authority officers who were allegedly told by the Chief Engineer that they (District Councils) were to blame for much of our misunderstanding of DEFRA’s policy on coastal defence as the Local Authorities are not managing (i.e. controlling) our expectations (i.e. thoughts) well enough. What a staggering statement to make.

I thought that type of regime and thinking fell with the Berlin Wall and Glasnost. Am I to presume then that I may well be accompanying Local Authority Officers from up and down the land on the next train to a gulag in Siberia?

Perhaps it is time to reflect on the power of non elected individuals particularly civil servants who are precisely that, servants of the people and not there to dictate terms in any form other than need. Accordingly the people of Happisburgh reject absolutely any form of criteria other than urgency necessity and need to protect the physical, social and economic well being of our community.

I do not necessarily blame the present Minister for our situation as Happisburgh’s need has been either ignored or rejected by previous administrations. I do however take note there is one common denominator through previous and current political administrations that is Reg Purnell, Chief Engineer; he has clearly been in a position of influence (perhaps too much) for many years.

Rather than trying to dictate what we may or may not think, maybe he would be more usefully employed working with our Local Authority finding a solution to our ongoing Coastal Defence problem!

Malcolm Kerby (08 June 2003)