October 2004 update

In this area I am sure we are going to see over the coming weeks many meetings organised by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC). To explain the rationale and finer nuances of the second generation pilot Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), extracts of which were published in the Eastern Daily Press recently.

If this does happen it will be a real opportunity to register your view on it’s implications. It is also extremely important that you ensure your elected representatives at both Parish and District Council levels have a clear understanding of your view on this subject that they may put your case on your behalf.

On the wider front let us remember there are three such SMPs all timed to be launched together and have the same `consultation’ period. The three `pilot’ areas are :

  1. NNDC (Kelling to Lowestoft Ness)
  2. Shepway District Council (Dover to Beachy Head)
  3. Arun District Council (Beachy Head to Selsey Bill)

In July 04 DEFRA released a significant and major consultation paper entitled Making Space For Water as a stepping stone to new policy formation on fluvial flooding and coast defence. I would congratulate them on the scope of that paper, it tables a wide range of questions and thought provoking comments for stakeholder discussion many of which CCAG has been calling for over recent years. Again congratulations DEFRA, much of the content of the Making Space For Waterpaper you would have regarded as heresy not that long ago. The wind of change is indeed blowing! The consultation period is due to close on 1st November 2004.

I recently attended a conference in Southampton organised by DEFRA as part of this consultation process. I came away from there with the impression that Whitehall is in `listening mode’. Let us hope that they are hearing and we end up with a rather more user friendly, more socially just policy than that which currently prevails. Heaven knows the inadequacies of current coast defence policy are glaringly obvious. We desperately need change, radical root and branch change, not just tinkering about with what we are already saddled with. A bit of lateral thinking would be welcome to find innovative ways to address the coast defence problems of both today and the future. Thinking which encompasses the needs of man and his historic communities whilst addressing the major issues of global warming, sea level rise and climate change. That is the real challenge, build on what we already have and secure it in a more community based, Eco-friendly way. Under current policy flora and fauna are compensated when their habitat is lost to coastal erosion but mankind is not. Is that socially just or acceptable?

It would have helped me believe the Making Space For Water consultation document and intentions more if the second generation SMPs were produced after whatever new policy comes out of all this. How can SMPs be produced which, we are told, are going to be operable for the next 20-50 years when we have no idea of the policy framework of which they are supposed to be a part? All seems a bit cart before horse to me, unless of course Government has already decided on the do nothing approach with the SMPs as scene setters and `consultation’ window dressing en route to what has already been decided.

It would have helped me believe in the SMP if Government had come clean about the effects of offshore dredging on coastal process. But they have not.

I have to hand an internal document from Westminster, presumably never meant for public consumption. Which clearly shows political duplicity over offshore dredging, I shall quote from four paragraphs under the heading, Concerns regarding the potential impact of Marine Aggregate Dredging:

  1. “Coastal erosion caused by Marine Aggregate Dredging, effecting property housing and tourism on our coastal areas. `Managed Retreat’ regarding sea defence would be quite acceptable if natural erosion went to the rebuilding of depleted down-tide areas. However, the large-scale removal of marine aggregate has led many to believe that the rapid erosion taking place on our coasts is going directly to replace marine aggregate that has been dredged from the seabed.”
  2. “A deterioration in the overall health/quality of the marine ecosystem since large-scale dredging has been in operation, 35% of Norfolk’s salt marshes have disappeared. Marine and biodiversity are dramatically reduced for a significant amount of time.”
  3. “A reduction in the socio-economic aspects of the sea, including fishery and amenity interests through such an environmental impact could result in further strains on fishing. The impact of dredging on localised areas can be significant, with marine stocks in that area being sharply reduced for a considerable amount of time. Concerns have been raised by many fishermen who have experienced the effects of dredging at first hand.”
  4. “We still need to work to increase our understanding of the process of coastal erosion. Only through this will a true factual analysis of the environmental and financial costs of Marine Aggregate Dredging be revealed. Current scientific analysis simply doesn’t provide an accurate assessment of these problems.”

It seems to me that unless and until there is a complete cessation of aggregate dredging natural equilibrium in coastal process can neither be restored or take place.

If natural equilibrium can neither be restored or take place then the second generation SMPs are seriously flawed and must be withdrawn. I believe the Eurosion team got it precisely right when they said “Aggregate dredging can either cause or exacerbate coastal erosion.”

As someone remarked to me recently when discussing the dredging issue “This is just how the BSE crisis started, evasive politicians and denials.” Some people (particularly some politicians it would seem) never learn do they!

Herewith some dredging statistics for you. Between 1989-2002 the total tonnage extracted by region, according to the Marine Sand and Gravel Information Service (MAGIS) was :

East Coast137,817,564
South Coast75,069,066
South West Coast30,336,752
North West Coast4,841,101
Rivers & Misc.1,005,752

So the total tonnage extracted from the Humber and East Coast areas (between which Happisburgh is situated) was 162,670,130 Tonnes.

Malcolm Kerby (26 October 2004)

Council leader against coastal plan

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

A senior politician has drawn a battle line in the sands of North Norfolk by pledging not to support a coastal plan which would “abandon” communities – unless full compensation is offered.

In a strongly worded statement, Simon Partridge, leader of North Norfolk District Council, voiced his concerns about the impact of the proposed new shoreline management plan (SMP), subject of several EDP reports in the last few weeks.

The plan, which will soon be put out to public consultation, proposes allowing hundreds of homes, tourist facilities and farmland to be given up to the sea between Kelling and Lowestoft over the next 100 years.

Some experts argue that this switch from hold the line to managed retreat is necessary because sea defences destroy coastlines in the long term, rather than save them.

Mr Partridge said he did not underestimate the impact of the SMP review and the difficult decisions the council would face. He added that the issue was arguably the most important in the district.

Both he and the Cabinet in North Norfolk felt that without financial support for those who lost their homes and businesses, they would not be able to support the proposal.

“As things stand at the moment, particularly in the absence of any form of compensation scheme, we cannot support a proposal to abandon this stretch of coastline and its local communities to the long-term effects of erosion by the sea,” said Mr Partridge.

He went on to say there was not enough money to maintain and renew existing sea defences, but defence would for now remain the council’s policy, “backed by our commitment to fight for the future of our coastal villages”.

“It is simply inconceivable that the council could promote a policy which leads to peoples’ homes and businesses being lost to the sea without full compensation derived from a genuine market valuation.”

Mr Partridge suggested that if the total value of assets which could be lost over the next 50 or 100 years was calculated and compared to the cost of defending the coast over the same period, it might turn out the existing policy of defence was “both preferable and deliverable”.

“That debate, however, must be directed at central government who must face up to the fact that this issue is so much bigger than North Norfolk,” he added.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group at Happisburgh, welcomed Mr Partridge’s comments.

“I applaud what he is saying because his words mirror what our group has been saying for some years now,” said Mr Kerby.

“I would add that it is clear to me that the SMP is by no means a council document, but the result of pressure from Government.

MP fights shoreline management plan

Byline: Adam Gretton, Eastern Daily Press

Norfolk MP is calling for compensation for coastal homeowners whose properties have been condemned to the sea by a new report.

Norman Lamb said a Government-backed plan, which recommends an abandonment of rural defences over the next 100 years, has caused “considerable anxiety” among his North Norfolk constituents.

The shoreline management plan, which was first unveiled by the EDP last week will mean hundreds of homes, tourist spots, and acres of farmland, with a value of around £250m, will be lost as a result of a “managed retreat” policy.

Mr Lamb is fighting the report and has written to environment minister Elliot Morley voicing his concerns and has invited officials from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to come and explain the policy to people living along the Norfolk and north Suffolk coast.

He said if a campaign against the “do nothing” approach fails, he wants reassurances that residents will get compensation for their losses.

“People that bought properties on the understanding that it was defended coastline have now had the goal posts shifted,” he said.

“Compensation is completely lacking here and the issue has to be considered.”

The management plan will only strengthen sea defences at larger coastal resorts but has already caused house price fears in villages like Mundesley, Happisburgh, Bacton and Winterton.

Mr Lamb added that Norfolk coastal campaigners must team up with colleagues in other erosion threatened counties to protest against the “unfair” report.

“I am acutely aware that we are finding a government with deaf ears so we need to pull our strength to speak with a united voice,” he said.

October 2004 Update

Proposed Kelling to Lowestoft Ness Shoreline Management Plan

I feel it is pertinent to preface my comments with a few words against which I would like my remarks to be judged.

Firstly I do have some understanding of the commitment and volume of work put into the plan by the relevant officers at NNDC. I also have a reasonable grasp of the constraints under which they were forced to construct this SMP.

All of my comments are directed at the plan itself and are in no way intended to reflect upon those charged with the onerous task of it’s production.

It is my unshakeable and firm belief that we are simply trustees of our rich, diverse environment and cultural heritage. I believe it is incumbent upon us to pass on to future generations the Norfolk we love, cherish and have been fortunate enough to enjoy in, at the very least, as good a condition as we inherited it. Notwithstanding that I also firmly believe we have the skills, technology and the know how to pass on to future generations a greatly improved and more secure version of the Norfolk we hold in trust today.

This proposed plan (together with the English Nature ChaMP report 2003) is pure academia, it does not address the real issues facing our communities, it’s main driver is obviously the ongoing reluctance of Central Government to provide funding for the defence of this nation from the sea.

It does not address the socio-economic problems we currently have let alone the enormous problems enactment of this plan would produce. It is in my view an unmitigated disaster for Norfolk.

It speaks of the desire to return to a more natural coastline yet it completely ignores what many believe are some of the most influential causes of damage and hugely accelerated rates of erosion in the area namely the as yet untested Sea Palling reef scheme, which many believe has caused more problems than it will ever solve and the effects of Marine Aggregate Dredging on the coastal process. I note para.3.2.1 Coastal process and coastal defence, contains a reference to aggregate dredging I quote “Whether or not there are links between offshore dredging and coastal erosion is uncertain”. If we are “uncertain” in this key area then this must surely invalidate the entire plan and it’s assumptions and predictions.

As is now widely known I personally went to Brussels last year where the question was put to a key member of the Eurosion team, “does offshore dredging cause coastal erosion?” the answer was an unequivocal “yes of course”. I shall not go into the extent of the damage limitation exercise undertaken by our authorities after I put that in the public domain but I shall quote from the final Eurosion document which is intended to be the state of the art document to which all EU member Governments and Municipal Authorities refer. Chapter 1.5.4 Erosion (page45) states : ” The main causes of erosion along the North Sea coasts are, Sea level rise for estuaries. Gradients in longshore sediment transport for sedimentary coasts. Storm surges for cliff coasts and dune coasts.”

Later in the same chapter is under the header: Sand mining and dredging. “Whereas beach nourishments may have a positive effect on coastal erosion, sediment extraction for sand mining locally attributes to erosion of the foreshore of the coast and may lead erosion of the beach and dune system on the longer term. Local deepening of the seafloor can alter wave patterns and cause gradients in sediment transports, resulting in local erosion”

This is a pretty damning indictment of aggregate dredging made by knowledgeable people who have no financial incentive or strategic reasons to cover up the true effects of offshore dredging on coastal process.

This must surely invalidate the whole proposed SMP as it has been compiled on the premise of incomplete data which throws all of the assumption and predictions of what our coastline may do into grave doubt. If the effects of dredging were not included in the modelling for the SMP, which it is patently obvious they were not, then no-one has any accurate idea of what our coastline will do at any given stage or time. Shockingly the answer to that one lies in the hands of the dredging companies for only they know how much of our marine environment they intend to remove.

I would contend that this proposed plan is purely a Shoreline plan and in no way addresses the management of the huge, immense socio- economic problems it will cause, indeed it has caused enough already before it is officially launched for it’s, so called, consultation process. Any such plan could only ever be workable if that dreaded word compensation were included. Without mitigation of the effects on peoples assets in the name of wider national interest, any plan of this type is doomed.

It is a real tragedy that we have not taken the opportunity to produce a real shoreline management plan, one which builds instead of destroys, one which faces and solves the challenges ahead instead of running away from them. I firmly believe we have the capability to produce a plan which provides protection for the coastal communities by the selective use of defences in already defended areas which will enhance the sedimentary transport and harness the natural elements to work with nature and enhance both man’s environment and the biodiversity of our area, if we followed this path coupled with a complete cessation of dredging of the Humber and East Coast we would then truly have fulfilled our obligations as trustees and pass on a much improved, more secure Norfolk to future generations.

I do not think those generations to come will thank us if we throw away so much of their cultural heritage as the current plan would demand of us.

Malcolm Kerby (08 October 2004)

October 2004 Comments

What an eventful ten days not just for Happisburgh but almost all the Norfolk coastal communities. First we have the reports in the press and media of a study conducted by Dr. Nigel Pontee of the Halcrow group and others which tells the world that the coastline of England and Wales has become steeper. The south of England showing the most dramatic changes. Apparently 61% of the studied coastline has been affected. According to Dr. Nigel the most likely cause of steepening appears to be man made infrastructure on the upper parts of the shore (how convenient).

What they have singularly failed to tell us is the contribution marine aggregate dredging has made to that steepening and I am willing to bet much of that 61% of coastline is close to the licensed dredging areas.

However it made a good scene setter for the next bombshell: the report in the Eastern Daily Press of the proposed Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for the Norfolk coast published on Saturday 2nd October and bombshell it most definitely was. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the proposed SMP because I/we, the so called stakeholders, are yet to see it or be told what is contained therein. I find it extremely difficult to understand why it was released to the press before it’s completion and publication.

A cynic would be forgiven for thinking that this was a part of a ‘softening up’ process to reduce the negative impact on it’s public release. The great danger here of course is that many people will ‘shoot the messenger’. Personally I would say well done Eastern Daily Press you have brought the whole sorry saga into the public eye. My congratulations to those involved at the Eastern Daily Press on an excellent report. At least I no longer have to worry in my campaigning about blighting properties in Happisburgh that would otherwise not be affected, this so called SMP appears to have done precisely that for almost the entire length of the Norfolk coast and the inland coastal strip. I fear that many people will feel the impact of this proposed SMP in a devaluing of their property and perhaps even difficulty in selling. I very much look forward to the official publication of this second generation pilot SMP surely there will be much to comment on.

Two words spring to mind: ‘stakeholder’ and ‘consultation’. At the moment those words seem meaningless. Here we see all the hallmarks of a ‘done deal’ before we even get a chance to have any input. Disgraceful!! I sense the heavy hand of Westminster in this.

Malcolm Kerby (06 October 2004)

Coastal housing ‘blight’ warning

Byline: Eastern Daily Press

Home-owners on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast fear the prices of their properties are set to plummet following a controversial new report that recommends abandoning long-standing sea defences.

One concerned resident in a clifftop North Norfolk village claims her home’s price tag was slashed by £120,000, following publicity of the 100-year plan, which advocates a more natural approach to coastal defence.

It has also been blamed for one sale falling through,

And despite “don’t panic” messages from engineers and an estate agents association, there are growing fears that he villages earmarked to be “abandoned” will have their property market irreparably blighted.

As reported in Saturday’s EDP, the shoreline management plan recommends that the “hold the line” strategy to coastal defence is replaced by “managed retreat” – effectively condemning hundreds of houses, tourist facilities, and acres of farmland to be swamped by the encroaching sea.

Several rural communities in Norfolk and north Suffolk could be left to the forces of nature with only bigger seaside resorts getting reinforced defences.

Property with an estimated value of around £250m could be lost as a result of the shoreline management plan, drawn up by councils and authorities, which will officially be unveiled next month.

But, despite the long-term nature of the predictions, the property market, which is beginning to feel the strain of a collapse, has already reacted.

David Will, a chartered surveyor and former North Norfolk district councillor, said the management plan would have a “devastating” effect on the housing market.

“Places like Sea Palling, Walcott, Bacton, and Mundesley have been popular and have seen prices go up considerably. All of this will be blighted because people’s views will change from this report,” he said.

He said one house sale in Walcott fell through on Monday as a direct result of the report.

Meanwhile, values in Happisburgh, where sea erosion is a very real concern, have fallen by around 20pc over the last year, he said.

“People ask me to find defects in their houses and value their property. I have always taken the coastal erosion element into account but this has made the situation worse – people in the area are less likely to sell.”

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh Coastal Concern Action Group said the report had caused a “blanket devaluation” of properties from Overstrand, near Cromer, to Corton, near Lowestoft, after being careful to protect land values in Happisburgh.

A house seller from Overstrand, who refused to be named, said the value of her property had gone from £265,000 to £145,000 overnight as a result of the report.

But Chris Hall from the National Association of Estate Agents urged homeowners not to panic.

“If something is reported in the media, people do take notice but I do not anticipate people putting their properties on the market,” he said.

Brian Farrow, coastal protection engineer from North Norfolk District Council, who helped draw up the blueprint, said it was early days in the shoreline management plan and the public had not yet been consulted.

“Obviously there will be some concern but once people explore the position, I would be surprised if there were any real effects on property prices,” he said.

The Bacton, Walcott and Ostend area will be worst hit by the management plan with £65.9m of losses, including nearly 400 properties, and a further £48.2m and 220 home loss to Mundesley.

The proposals will save towns like Cromer, Sheringham, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but will mean disappearing or narrowing beaches.

Gary Watson, coastal manager for North Norfolk District Council, called for as many people as possible to get involved in a public consultation exercise next month.

He added that the shoreline management plan was causing a “huge debate” over the “uncertain” effect on tourism.

“One side says it will improve with a shift to a natural functioning coastline with wild and rugged features, which will be attractive to tourists. The negative side is that cliff top properties will be lost like B&Bs and hotels,” he said.

“There is no need to panic – we are required to look 100 years in the future, which is a sensible approach. All we ask is that people start to think about the ways we can shape our coastline.

Shock report casts Norfok to the seas

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

Hundreds of homes, dozens of tourist facilities, and swathes of farmland are set to be swallowed by the sea in the next 100 years.

A Government-backed new coastal defence strategy blueprint, which redraws the coastline in a huge slice of Norfolk and north Suffolk, says controlled retreat is the only affordable and sustainable way to manage most of the region’s sea-lashed shore.

It means defences being abandoned, and a handful of resort towns earmarked to have their defences strengthened will be left without beaches unless they are artificially recharged.

The shoreline management plan, drawn up by local councils working with the Government officials and conservation agencies, pulls no punches.

It warns the consequences of its recommendations “cannot be under-estimated” and urges planners to start work now on earmarking land to move people.

It means the coastline and tourist hotspots of today will change, as holiday homes, campsites, beaches and golf courses disappear.

The total value of property affected is around £250m, with the Bacton, Walcott and Ostend area suffering the worst with £65.9m worth of losses, including up to 390 homes, and Mundesley a further £48.2m, including 220 houses and 35 commercial properties.

Environmental scientist Prof Tim O’Riordan, from the University of East Anglia, who chaired a workshop on the shoreline plan at Cromer yesterday, said: “We must make a mobile and unstable coast. People should see this as an opportunity not a threat.

“Building more concrete walls will just end in tears. They are a waste of time and money. Defences only save clifftop properties – they actually destroy coastlines.”

The answer lay in managing sediment movements so that eroding cliffs naturally fed beaches further along the coast.

The report – covering an area from Kelling to Lowestoft, said carrying on with the current strategy of trying to hold the line in more places would result in a fragmented shoreline made up of a series of concrete headlands, with bays in between.

In the long term, villages such as Mundesley, Happisburgh, Caister and Corton will be left to the ravages of the North Sea, albeit in a slow, managed way.

And it warns that even at big resorts to be “saved”, such as Cromer, Sheringham, and Lowestoft, beaches would disappear as deepening water lapped against the defences all the time.

North Norfolk District Council’s coastal manager Gary Watson, who has played a leading role in the plan, said that was unlikely to happen because of the tourism impacts. Artificial beach recharges, as happened in many Spanish resorts, would keep the sands there for bucket and spade holidaymakers.

But he warned that the cost of defending the key resorts would be high because of the huge engineering tasks involved.

The report also said the price of sea defences is set to spiral, costing up to four times their current £3m-£5m a kilometre cost.

Mr Watson said he realised the management plan would cause consternation, but that the change in policy was necessary.

There was no need to panic, as the suggested changes would not have an immediate impact.

Little would change for around 20 years while, in the short term, existing defences were maintained where economically viable.

But he added: “We have a serious problem along this coastline and we need to tackle it. I believe this is the way to go. This is a bullet that has to be bitten.

“We are well aware of the outcry this will cause, but we cannot put this problem off for the future, it needs dealing with now.”

Coastal options

The shoreline management plan shows the potential housing and commercial property loss over the next 100 years.

There remains a big question mark over one area however – the Eccles to Winterton stretch behind the Sea Palling man-made reefs, which aim to stop the sea surging into the low-lying Broads.

Further detailed work is still looking at possible strategies for that area, but if nothing is done 1530 houses and 130 commercial properties could be lost by 2025 – though experts say that is unlikely to be allowed to happen.

Under the “Preferred” plan, the losses are:
2025: up to 80 houses and less than five commercial premises.
2055: between 80 and 450 houses and 80 commercial.
2105: between 450 and 1300 houses and 170 commercial.

If nothing is done:
2025: 200 houses and 20 commercial.
2055: up to 1000 houses and 300 commercial.
2105: approaching 2700 houses and 550 commercial.

Under the preferred plans, predicted implications for the following areas by the year 2105

  • Kelling Hard to Sheringham – loss of not less than five houses, farmland and part of Sheringham golf course.
  • Sheringham – no loss of property but beach disappears and lifeboat station at risk of damage
  • Sheringham to Cromer – at least 10 houses and 10 commercial properties lost, along with farmland and caravan park land.
  • Cromer – no loss of property, but beach lost and lifeboat station may need to be relocated.
  • Cromer to Overstrand – at least five commercial properties and some golf course lost.
  • Overstrand – 60 – 140 houses and up to 10 commercial properties lost, along with sewage pumping station and car park
  • Overstrand to Mundesley – 30 – 90 houses and 10 – 20 commercial properties lost, along with radar site, Trimingham church, main coast road, Vale Road beach access, caravan parks and 85 hectares of farmland.
  • Mundesley – up to 220 houses and 35 commercial properties plus sections of coast road. Beach narrows, and could be launching problems for lifeboat.
  • Mundesley to Bacton gas terminal – land loss at holiday camp and chalet park, 55 seafront properties at southern end of Mundesley, and 20 hectares of farmland.
  • Bacton gas terminal – loss of land and cliff edge buildings at risk.
  • Bacton, Walcott, Ostend – 200 – 390 seafront homes and 20-30 commercial properties, along with caravan park land.
  • Ostend to Eccles – 20 – 35 properties lost, caravan park land and 45 hectares of farmland
  • Eccles to Winterton – worst case scenarion of up to 1020 properties and 5200 hectares of farmland, plus large section of B1159 Road.
  • Winterton to Scratby – 150 seafront properties lost in Newport and Scratby plus holiday developments, tourists facilities and roads.
  • California to Caister – 70 – 130 seafront properties lost, including holiday accomodation, roads.
  • Caister – up to 50 properties lost and holiday centres / caravan parks.
  • Yarmouth – no loss of property but increased risk of defences being overtopped. Little or no beach, particularly at southern end.
  • Gorleston – no loss of property but increased risk of prom being overtopped. Very narrow beach.
  • Gorleston to Hopton – loss of some golf course.
  • Hopton – less than 20 seafront properties loast along with promenade
  • Hopton to Corton – loss of campsiteland, and 25 hectares of farmland.
  • Corton – up to 90 houses and 25 commercial properties lost along with seafront holiday sites, coast road, Methodist church, village hall and pub. School possibly at risk.
  • Corton to Lowestoft – pollution risk due to exposure of Eleni V tanker disaster oil dump.
  • Lowestoft to Ness Point – no loss of peroperty but no beach.

Homes have to be sacrificed in future

The prospect of homes falling into the sea is a reality at one Norfolk seaside village.

Happisburgh has been campaigning for years to get government funding to repair and improve its sea defences.

The new shoreline management plan, if it is adopted, would seem to destroy any hope of winning their battle by earmarking it for “managed retreat” in the longer term.

Reaction in the community to the strategy last night was a mixture of anger and renewed determination to show defences were still needed.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh Coastal Concern Action Group, said: “I don’t think it is responsible to give away swathes of our nation.

“It’s not beyond the wit of man to tackle this issue with defences. What we can’t contemplate is doing nothing. You cannot cast asunder these people losing their homes and livelihoods.

“We either have to have our defences replaced, or we have to have compensation. But I believe defences are possible.”

The issue of financial compensation, not covered in shoreline management policy, looks set to emerge as a major issue under the new plans, as they go out to public consultation.

Di Wrightson has watched roads and chalets tumble on the clifftop from the home and bed and breakfast business she has run for 24 years.

But now it too is just 17m from oblivion, and she is geared up to move out this winter – heading inland to rented accomodation.

She attended yesterday’s meeting and came away “quite angry and still fighting”.

“I don’t care what the academics say. You are letting down future generations.”

Overstrand district councillor Angie Tillett said the plan was “a disaster”.

Sea defence builders of the past had “given false hopes to our generation” but she still felt villages were worth protecting.

Council colleague Sue Willis, whose ward includes Bacton and Mundesley, said “we need some form of compensation if people are going to lose their homes and livelihoods”.

Council coastal manager Gary Watson explained that sea defences interrupted natural coastal processes such as longshore drift and sediment movement – leading to a shortage of sand to feed beaches.

Longer term, the strategy would result in wide, natural sweeping beaches, while more and bigger defences could threaten the very existence of those beaches.

Prof. Tim O’Riordan said it was a “terrific step forward” that a Government was looking 100 years into the future for the first time.

He said there was no hidden agenda, and that the plan was not an excuse for lack of spending on coastal defences – where the overall budget was actually rising.

And he was encouraged by the consensus on the need for change among the agencies who have been involved in drawing up the plan.

He added: “We cannot turn the tide back, but we can work together for the best possible deal.”