April 2008 – The Real Inconvenient Truth About Climate Change

It is extremely regrettable and highly possible that global warming, sea level rise and climate change will have little work to do in terms of wrecking our coast as we know it and the lives of all who live and work in the coastal zone as we progress through this century.

Our Government will already have done that long before we/they know or understand what the real extent the effects of climate change may be.

By assuming the worst and throwing away communities and land around our coast now we are not managing the problem we are abdicating our responsibilities to future generations and binding them into costs they may never have been forced to bear had we been more pragmatic in our approach today.

Already we have seen current Governance and policy effectively shut down many coastal communities and indeed many more inland of the littoral line (as in the Natural England proposals for the northern Norfolk Broads) causing unnecessary havoc and very severe adverse financial implications for those who live and work there.

Over the last 25-30 years Governments of both political persuasion have consistently and massively underfunded coast management resulting in the now critical and dangerous state of this Nation’s coast protection and sea defences. This is not just my view, it is referred to in the Foresight Study of 2004.

By neglecting to adequately fund the maintenance and improvement of the Nation’s protection from the sea over such an extended period we now face significant costs just to bring those defences up to today’s standards and even more to take account of any effects of climate change we may be facing, again this point was made in the Foresight Study.

Armed with this information the Government decided not to continue defending many areas thus saving a great deal of expense. This option is hugely attractive to Government because of the immensely biased way our coastal governance operates.

Under current rules if Government decides to withdraw from defending any part of the coast it does so at absolutely zero cost to itself. All costs are borne locally, no matter how significant those costs may be. At the moment Central Government steadfastly refuses to allow the real cost of not defending to be set against the cost of defending simply because to do this would prove beyond all doubt that defending is by far the cheaper (and perhaps more sustainable) option. So it all boils down to a very simple decision, to defend would cost Government money, to not defend costs them nothing.

Of the 2.15 billion pounds allocated for Flood and Coast Defence over the three year spending period which has just started this month only 110 million pounds (App.5% of the total) is allocated for coast protection to be shared amongst over 92 Maritime Local Authorities. Says it all really doesn’t it !!

Malcolm Kerby (26 April 2008)

April 2008 Comments – The national approach

Since this internet facility was launched in 2002 we have watched it grow and mature into both a national and international point of reference. Alongside this the problems experienced by Happisburgh are now being experienced at more and more locations around this country.

The list of communities falling victim to our Government’s mismanagement of our coast is growing.

It has become increasingly difficult to provide an adequate resource to other communities. In recent times I have been contacted by communities from as far afield as Cleveland and Yorkshire in the north to communities all along the south coast from Kent to Hampshire.

With this in mind we have launched a new website www.nvcc.org.uk to provide a National Voice for Coastal Communities with the sole aim of providing a facility where all affected areas and peoples can share their experiences and coast management problems to hopefully pull together and increase pressure on Government to adopt a more sensible and Socially Just form of coastal governance.

To illustrate why we have created this new facility, the CCAG site currently receives an average of 30,000 visits a month with 140,000 page impressions from over 60 countries.

This is a truly phenominal success rate and we hope the launch of the new facility will build on that.

Malcolm Kerby (19 April 2008)

Army chief condemns Broads flood plan

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 17 April 2008)

Britain’s top soldier – who has spent a professional lifetime defending the realm – last night joined the battle to save huge swathes of Norfolk from being surrendered to the sea.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, who is a Norfolk farmer and president of the 2008 Royal Norfolk Show, said it would be a tragedy if plans to allow the sea to breach coastal defences between Horsey and Winterton, were allowed to go ahead.

Speaking exclusively to the EDP, Sir Richard said he was shocked to hear that the area around Horsey – one of his favourite locations in the county – was at the heart of proposals to allow the sea defences to be breached in a move that would see 25 sq miles of the Broads surrendered to the sea.

Sir Richard, who as Chief of the General Staff is the professional head of the British Army, said: “I think it would be a tragedy if we allowed that area to be given up and inundated.”

The General, who pointed out that he spent his professional life “defending UK interests” and by definition, potentially protecting UK territory, added: “I think to give up a great chunk of Norfolk to the sea without a fight is something I find quite counter-intuitive and quite difficult to do.

“I really think we should continue to invest in the sea defences around there, I think it would be a tragedy to lose a wonderful area of the county by allowing the sea in without a fight. After all, the Dutch manage to achieve this perfectly well so why can’t we do this on our side of the North Sea.”

Sir Richard, who farms just south of Norwich, joins a growing group of campaigners who are opposed to the proposal by Natural England.

The proposal is one of four being considered by Natural England, and would see low lying areas as far inland as Potter Heigham and Stalham – where new sea walls would be built – would be flooded.

Hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of farmland and some of Norfolk’s top wildlife sites would be lost beneath the waves. The villages of Eccles, Sea Palling, Waxham, Horsey, Hickling and Potter Heigham along with parts of Somerton would be given up to the sea. The area would be allowed to revert to reed beds and saltmarsh.

The other options under consideration are to “hold the line” of existing defences, do nothing and allow defences to fall into disrepair, and “adapt the line” by moving defences slightly inland.

However, the Environment Agency has said that its present commitment is to continue to maintain the defences of the Broads for at least the next 50 years. Steve Hayman from the Environment Agency has also indicated that a further £7million of work is scheduled to take place over the next two years to continue the protection of the coast.

Sir Richard has lived in Norfolk for the past 35 years and is passionate about the county, its landscape and the wildlife and conservation work that has been carried out in the areas affected by the proposal.

He has been elected President of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and will preside over the 2008 Royal Norfolk Show in June, which this year is expected to have a strong military theme to it.

Opinion: General call to arms

What better man to have on you side than General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, when there is thought and talk of surrendering British territory?

Britain’s top soldier – who also farms near Norwich, and is this year’s president of the Royal Norfolk Show – has voiced his opposition to Natural England’s idea of surrendering 25 miles of Norfolk to the North Sea. He thinks it would be a “tragedy” if it went ahead; he has stressed that giving up “a great chunk of Norfolk to the sea without a fight” is, for him “counter-intuitive”; and he wonders why, in resisting the sea, we can’t be more like the Dutch.

Many people, in and beyond the threatened area, will like the sound of this. The “surrender” option is a worstcase one. It may never happen, and if it does it may be after another half a century or more has passed. The proposal has caused immediate pain and worry for many people, however, and runs against the grain of both the national and local character.

It seems doubly appropriate that the 2008 Norfolk Show is expected to have a military theme. Be prepared to wear a tin hat. We shall fight on the beaches… we shall fight in the fields… we shall never surrender.

‘We will fight to save our villages’

Byline: By Ed Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 09 April 2008)

Villagers vented their fury at the government during a packed public meeting held last night in one of the parish churches directly threatened by a proposal to abandon six Broads villages to the North Sea.

Around 400 people packed into St Mary’s Church in Hickling to decide how to react to possible plans revealed in the EDP at the end of last month which could see hundreds of homes, thousands of acres of farmland and some of the county’s top wildlife sites surrendered to the sea.

Under the proposal – one of several which has so far only been considered behind closed doors by the agencies involved – 25 square miles of Norfolk could be flooded by a coastal breach and allowed to turn into salt marsh and reed beds. The villages concerned are Hickling, Horsey, Sea Palling, Waxham, Potter Heigham and Eccles.

At last night’s meeting it was revealed for the first time that the plan would affect 600 homes, a figure obtained by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb through direct discussions with the Environment Agency and Natural England, two of the key bodies involved.

The meeting was the first of three and provided the first opportunity for the public to discuss and debate the deeply controversial plans. Concerns centred around property blight, the fact the proposals had so far only been discussed secretly and whether it would be possible to take the government to court.

The first person to speak was Peter Boggis, who has become well known for his fight to save his home from coastal erosion at Easton Bavents, near Southwold.

“There is nothing more natural for a man to stand up and fight for his home and the way of life he enjoys,” said Mr Boggis.

“It is in the public and national interest that the coast should not be abandoned.”

Mr Boggis said the government agencies involved had failed to “respect property or human rights” and said they actions were “almost criminal”.

Chris Hall, a Horsey parish councillor, said it was important to include the “whole of Norfolk” in any battle with the government over the issue, as it was something which concerned a much wider area than the six named villages.

Chris Hollis said he was “appalled” by Natural England’s comments about habitat and failure to mention jobs, homes or history.

“Are the Dutch giving up part of their country like this?” said Mr Hollis.

Hickling resident Simon Mann said he had considerable concerns about the “clandestine manner” in which Natural England had behaved.

“They should have come out of their hiding place,” said Mr Mann, who went on to make a lengthy argument about the Human Rights Act and the possibility of taking court action in the future.

“We need to galvanise. Mr Lamb, when you next speak to Gordon Brown, tell him ‘Hickling says no!'”

Dr Martin George of the Broads Society said the authorities were ignoring people in their discussions.

He added that the much vaunted Option 4 of allowing the sea to encroach the six villages was not the only option which could cause problems for the area, insisting that three out of the four options were seriously problematic and the other was only less damaging.

None of the four options were acceptable, said Dr George, and the only satisfactory solution was to strengthen the existing sea wall.

Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group, who called the meeting alongside Mr Lamb, said the concerns expressed at last night’s meeting would be “carried to the heart of government”.

He added that he was “incandescent” at the recent actions of “government quango” Natural England.

Mr Lamb said it was very important that the village of Hickling had demonstrated its feelings in such numbers and with such force.

“We have got to do everything we possibly can to require government to defend this coastline,” said Mr Lamb.

“It is vital to demonstrate the strength and unanimity of feeling.”

Natural England spokesman David Viner said earlier in the day that his organisation had planned to talk to the public about the plan later in the year.

Feelings running high in Broads villages

Byline: By Jon Welch (Eastern Daily Press, 04 April 2008)

Pie-in-the-sky or a genuine threat? A week after draft proposals that would surrender a large area of Norfolk to the North Sea were uncovered, what is the mood of the communities that would be affected? JON WELCH reports.

On a warm spring day with sunshine glinting on its gently rippling Broad, there can be few more pleasant places to be than Hickling.

Beneath the village’s tranquil veneer, however, there is anger and fear.

A week after the EDP revealed how conservation bosses were considering proposals that would ultimately involve surrendering the village and at least five others to the sea, feelings are still running high.

The anger, it seems, is directed not so much at the publicly-funded bodies, including Natural England, the Broads Authority and the Environment Agency, that have been discussing the scheme, but towards the EDP for breaking the news that the proposals were back on the agenda.

In Hickling and surrounding villages, there is an altogether understandable refusal to believe that such a scheme could even be entertained, even though the bodies involved admit that while discussions are at an early stage, they have to be prepared to think the unthinkable.

“Who’s going to buy a house here now? What’s it going to do to property values?” asks one villager, bitterly.

John Tallowin, of nearby Willow Farm, is sceptical that the government would ever approve proposals to allow the sea to flood the area.

“I don’t think they are foolish enough to allow it to happen and for all the hard work that our forefathers and other agencies have put in to go to waste,” he says.

Eric Lindo retired to the village 12 years ago and now chairs the Stalham with Happing Partnership, which works to regenerate an area comprising some 20 parishes in this beautiful corner of north-east Norfolk.

“It’s very much a talking point,” he says. “I don’t think I have met anybody since that article came out that hasn’t talked about it. It succeeded in bringing to everybody’s attention the lack of government understanding of yet another threat to rural life.

“People are more worried about the short-term effects: the impact on housing, businesses, getting household and business insurance, participating in equity release schemes, long-term care. It has impacted on lots of different people in lots of different ways, each of them serious.”

Already there are stories of house sales falling through. “It has made people think twice about moving into the area,” says Mr Lindo.

“There is insufficient information to put their minds at rest. There has to be a programme of information to say, ‘It’s a threat that does not exist today, it’s half a century away’.”

The troubling proposals were first drawn up in 2003 by the Environment Agency and English Nature.

Little-known even then, they had been virtually forgotten about until six weeks ago when they appeared in a Natural England-authored report as the most radical of four options for dealing with climate change in the Broads.

“It’s up to Natural England to bring that up,” says Mr Lindo. “It’s up to the government to weigh that report against the interests of people who live in the area and it will be interesting to see how much the government values the people of Norfolk with regard to the decisions it has got to make.”

Mr Lindo doesn’t agree with those who say the area cannot be protected from rising sea levels.

“Tell that to the Dutch. Much of Holland is much lower-lying than East Anglia. The Dutch are looking across the North Sea in bemused puzzlement as to why this debate is going on.”

In Stalham, no-one is keen to see the town get an “on-Sea” suffix.

Mike Becconsall says: “I think it’s outrageous. Why they can’t do something to protect the coastline I don’t know. But I don’t think they will go ahead. There would be too much hue and cry.”

Loading up her shopping in the town’s Tesco store, Colleen Ford is horrified by the proposals.

“I suppose my head’s saying they won’t ever let it happen. We live in Potter Heigham. We would be very affected by it – we’ve lived here 28 years. Our house is everything to us. Who’s going to buy around here now?”

Just a few miles away in Ingham, people are more used to living with the threat of the sea. Frank and Kerri Knights live and work at Causeway Farm, where they run a butcher’s shop.

“We’re happy here – when it’s lapping over the fields, that’s when we’ll worry,” says Mr Wright.

“People in the shop have been worried about house prices. They are worried that prices will halve, and even if they do whether anybody will touch them.

“It’s stupid to let thousands of homes go and spend millions on dams inland. Why not protect what you have got now?”

Meetings will the the public a voice

A leading coastal campaigner and a Norfolk MP will host a trio of meetings in the next two weeks to give the public a voice in the debate about the future of the northern Broads.

Proposals for the future of the waterways have already been discussed behind closed doors at a conference in Norwich on climate change, organised by Natural England and attended by representatives of the Environment Agency, Broads Authority and Norfolk County Council, plus other organisations.

But the public needed a forum to make their feelings known, said Coastal Concern Action Group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby.

Although some people might perceive CCAG as a Happisburgh-based group with a main focus on cliff erosion, it has built up a reach into several government departments and is now an internationally-recognised body.

“There has been a massive response in the last few days since the piece in the EDP,” said Mr Kerby.

“We need to strike while the iron is hot and give people the chance to say their piece. This can then be fed back up the chain via us and the MP.

“We need to try and get an air of calm back to proceedings and explain to people that horrendous though this proposal may be, it is purely the wish list of a government quango, a quango which does not have the ultimate power to put it in place.

“We cannot let them keep banging on about this without consulting with the stakeholders, which means us.

“These three meetings will be in-house gatherings for the wider family of north-east Norfolk to gather and discuss, there will be no constraints, no officialdom, an uninhibited discussion.”

Mr Kerby said people needed to vent their anger at the authorities responsible for shaping coastal defence policy – Defra, the Environment Agency and Natural England – rather than other organisations such as the EDP who were simply reporting what was being suggested.

“Don’t shoot the messenger; in this case we should be saying thank goodness we were told about this.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb will attend the meetings and said yesterday: “We need an opportunity to talk to the communities concerned and to give them an opportunity to raise particular concerns and anxieties.”

The meetings will be held at St Mary’s Church, in Hickling, on April 8; Potter Heigham village hall on April 9; and Sea Palling village hall on April 15. All meetings start at 7.30pm and will be open forums.

Letter: “Send in the newts”

Re the proposed deliberate flooding of the east coast area of North Norfolk. A solution has been found, thanks to some extent to a story carried by the EDP. What we need to do is to search the proposed flooded area for one of the following: great crested newts, rare orchids and/or endangered butterflies.

When found, Parliament will ensure that no work is carried out in the area of the flooding as to do so would be against the law and as such they would have to sue themselves.

It seems strange that the government could go ahead and affect the lives of thousands of people by riding roughshod over public opinion but as soon as they disturb a newt, flower of butterfly they would be breaking the law.

Problem solved. (A RABEY, Newton Close, Newton St Faith.)