October 2006 Comments

I would like to begin this month by referring to the press article 25th September Sea defence boss attacks agency . This I think is a measure of the importance of DEFRA’s decision to give the Environment Agency (EA) overall control of coast defence.

Peter Frew coast defence boss at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) is a quiet, thoughtful,extremely competent man who really knows his subject. He is also well aware of the backlash which can be exerted by the government agencies on those such as himself who speak out or step out of line. So I take my hat off to him, it was a brave move to speak out on behalf of the coastal dwellers of North Norfolk.

I sincerely hope the crass idiot within the EA who made the comments which sparked the article is now looking for another job as far away from anything to do with coast defence as possible. All I can do is offer him some advice, stay away from public relations it is not your forte!

What this episode highlights is the sizeable mistake of giving the EA overall control it will make a difficult situation even worse ( as I outlined in my Alternative Governance for living with a changing coastline document, October 2004). It can only lead to greatly reduced local input on coast management with a more centralised, dictatorial approach. The EA is a government quango of leviathon proportions not renowned for it’s speed or accuracy of response. Recently I have been working with people on the south coast, the Kent/Sussex border, where the EA is trying to push forward coastal realighnment seemingly irrespective of the effect on both people and some say the coastline itself. This most certainly does not hold much promise of a brighter more effective coastal future.

Closer to home the EA I believe were the champions of the reef scheme at Sea Palling some years ago which was never completed and went astronomically over budget. As predicted by many local people (who were of course ignored in just the same way that our response to the proposed Shoreline Management Plan has been ignored) that reef scheme, whilst turning around the fortunes of Sea Palling village itself, has proved to be a huge and extremely costly white elephant causing extreme problems elsewhere along the coast and is a leading example of unsustainable development in coastal terms.

DEFRA have recently(Aug 06) published a consultation document under the Making Space For Water strategy asking for comment on it’s decision to give the EA overall control of coast defence. Rarely have I seen such a biased document. I would certainly recommend that everyone responds to this consultation by outlining the abject folly of giving the EA overall control. It will lead to an even worse situation than we have now.

Having recently returned from a trip to the North East of England and Scotland looking at coast defences, as well as an earlier trip to the South coast (around the Lydd, Camber, Dungeness area) I am left with a lasting impression that until we have locally driven solutions within a whole coast framework employing all the options and managing the whole coast for sound coast management reasons we are heading for chaos and disaster.

Coast management decisions made under purely fiscal drivers are not coast MANAGEMENT at all but merely an opt out abdicating our responsibilities (and cost) to future generations.

Malcolm Kerby (03 October 2006)