Surge floods prompt new erosion fears

Byline: (North Norfolk News, 14 November 2007)

Seaside homes, businesses and tourist attractions across north Norfolk were left battered and bruised by the worst storm surge for 50 years.

And, as the big clear up continues after the wave and flood damage, coastal campaigners say it shows exactly why the government cannot abandon sea defences.

Friday’s towering, wind-driven seas left a trail of damage in their wake – smashing down walls of houses at Walcott, splintering decking on Cromer pier, and reducing beach huts to match wood.

Coastal defences were given a bloody nose, but escaped the knock out punch that many people feared as authorities prepared for the worst flooding since 1953.

Campaigners are using the dramatic day to renew calls for government spending on sea defences, and their will be top of the agenda when the Coastal Concern Action Group heads to London on November 21 to meet environment minister Phil Woollas.

Group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said: “The government will be crowing about wonderfully things worked simply because Yarmouth got away with it.

“But we only missed a 1953 disaster because the weather let us off. The surge was a little lower than expected and if the wind had shifted a few degrees we would have been in serious trouble.

“The government needs to latch on the fact that if they if there is erosion you will get flooding on a scale you cannot imagine.”

Officials are still assessing the full extend and cost of the storm damage along the north Norfolk coast.

The district council this week said it was “extensive”, and that it was seeking to make a claim for compensation under the government’s Bellwin scheme – last used to recover £100,000 worth of costs for damage done in the 1996 storms.

Replacing damaged promenade handrails alone is likely to cost £20,000, while council-owned beach chalets are set to cost more than £40,000 to mend.

Clean up work was taking place this week on damaged and debris-strewn promenades at Cromer, Sheringham and Overstrand in a bid to get them open as soon as possible.

Inspections of steel are taking place under Cromer pier, where waves have damaged the floor of the Pavilion Theatre

At Walcott where 20 homes were flooded as waves came over the seawalls, families have found accommodation with friends or family. Trading standards officers this week visited the village, warning people against rogue traders offering repairs, and yesterday afternoon a public meeting was due to assess the best way to clear up debris.

Wildlife experts were also this week assessing the damage to nature reserves at Cley and Salthouse marshes which were flooded as waves came over shingle banks, left to lower under new coastal management techniques – with improved drainage designed to help the saltwater clear more quickly working well under its first real test.

Government promises erosion cash

Byline: By Ed Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 15 October 2007)

The government has finally bowed to years of pressure from persistent Norfolk lobby groups and set aside millions of pounds to help communities at risk from coastal erosion, it was revealed last night.

The surprise move is in the small print of the heavyweight pre-budget report and comprehensive spending review published last week. It commits a pot of £10 million to help communities deal with the consequences of flooding and coastal erosion where the construction of defences is not deemed “appropriate”.

The allocation of the money was last night welcomed by leading climate change and coastal campaigners, who described it as “joyous”.

The figure of £10 million would not be sufficient as a long term solution, said the campaigners, but they stressed an important principle had been established in official policy for the first time.

The government pledge stops short of using phrases such as “compensation” and “social justice”, instead using the word “adaptation” – but it represents a significant turn around, said Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Happisburgh based Coastal concern Action Group, which now campaigns on an international stage.

“This is huge, a momentous step forward, quite joyous. It is the single most important development for the benefit of coastal communities for many years,” said Mr Kerby.

“Our problems are not solved, but for the first time we can see there is going to be some kind of assistance on the table for those people who are suffering. We never had that before.

“It is not clear what this will translate as, how it will shake down, and the pot is wholly inadequate, but at this stage that is not the point – it is now written in tablets of stone that the government is prepared to provide financial assistance to communities who are facing this dreadful plight.

“Bear in mind as well that this has been announced in one of the most important policy documents of the year.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said a new principle had been established: “This is the first sign of a breakthrough for the many years we have been putting forward the argument for social justice.

“It is far too early to be confident we will reach a satisfactory conclusion, but it is crucially important that the government has accepted the principle of helping people in these situations.

“It is a dramatic piece of news and I share the excitement with those people on the coast directly affected. We now enter a new stage of the process.”

A meeting arranged with environment minister Phil Woolas for the end of the month now took on a whole new importance, said Mr Lamb, with further clarification vital.

Both Mr Lamb and Mr Kerby said they felt the new policy was the direct result of a collective effort in north Norfolk, involving politicians, North Norfolk District Council, CCAG and communities at threat such as Happisburgh.

“Unanimity has won this major battle,” said Mr Kerby.

And Mr Lamb said: “No one else in the country has been arguing this case other than the group in Norfolk.” That group included Mr Kerby and the communities he represented, the district council and climate change expert Tim O’Riordan, said Mr Lamb.

The district council’s head of coastal strategy Peter Frew, said he was “very pleased indeed” at the news.

“We will have to wait and see how it would work, but I would like to think the district council can be involved in any pilot schemes or associated works.”

Council sets conditions for accepting sea defence plan

Byline: By Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 03 September 2007)

A campaigning council is demanding a raft of measures to help erosion-threatened seaside communities face their fate.

It is the only way the embattled coastal area will accept the controversial new shoreline management plan, whose new policies could put thousands of properties at risk.

Half a billion pounds worth of homes and businesses could potentially be lost to erosion and sea flooding under moves to abandon almost all the existing sea defences in north Norfolk.

The district council has been among those vocally opposing the emerging shoreline management plan (SMP).

But it is now saying it would “conditionally” accept the master plan – providing there are measures in place to help the communities affected.

That could range from compensation to individual property owners, to relaxing planning guidelines to allow communities to expand inland.

But North Norfolk District Council’s cabinet member for coastal issues Clive Stockton stressed the change of stance was not a question of caving in.

“We have accepted there is no way of practically defending the whole of the north Norfolk coast. So we must find a combination of poilicies, which includes measures to ensure there is social justice for those areas which cannot be defended. We are not Luddites. But we are also not prepared to roll over and give in. We must find a pragmatic and workable way forward.”

Only the main resorts of Cromer and Sheringham, along with the nationally important gas terminal at Bacton, and the vulnerable Winterton area were earmarked for ongoing protection in the new SMP.

Other places face “realignment” – by letting ageing defences crumble and nature take its course over the next 50 years. The areas most needing help to mitigate against possible policy change were Overstrand, Mundesley, Bacton, Walcott, Ostend, Eccles and the Runtons.

Up to 1,000 coastal properties could be lost and a further 2,500 inland if the sea broke through, added Mr Stockton.

Digging in its heels to seek help for communities could take years admitted Mr Stockton, but the council was spending £200,000 a year for the next decade, to buy time at villages whose defences were struggling to cope. Happisburgh was strengthened last year, and this year it was Overstrand’s turn.

He was heartened the government which was previously “deaf” to the calls for social justice, was now looking at an “adaptation toolkit” including issues such as blight caused in communities by failing sea defences.

Compensation was being discussed, along with the possibility of the government buying threatened property to give the owners their equity back, while leasing it back to tenants to keep it occupied until it became unsafe.

Council cabinet will be asked to agree the new stance next Monday, and the issues will also be raised when a delegation meets the new environment minister Phil Woolas next month.

August 2007 Comments

Comments on the press article funds bid on way –

  1. There is no “new Shoreline Management Plan” (SMP2) other than the Kelling to Lowestoft Ness SMP2 published late 2004 and launched early 2005.
  2. Acceptance of that SMP2 by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and/or Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) is in no way linked to obtaining Central Government (DEFRA/EA) funds for coast defence. The truth is NNDC/GYBC et al have been told by DEFRA if SMP2 is not accepted by them they will be classified as ‘outside the system’ and will not be allowed to even bid for funds. To understand this is to understand that there will not be any right to funds whatever happens. It merely means that the coastal authorities, if they accept SMP2, will retain the right to bid for funding but in no way guarantees the provision of any funding.
  3. The meeting on the 22nd Aug at GYBC was a Cabinet meeting to decide what recommendations are made to full Council re SMP2. Those recommendations will be discussed and the decision whether or not to accept SMP2 are due to take place at the full Council meeting scheduled for late October/early November.

I sincerely hope this clears up any misunderstandings and prevents any false hope being raised. If you have any thoughts on the matter or would like further explanation or discussion please use the forum on this site to add your thoughts or pose your questions.

Malcolm Kerby (25 August 2007)

July 2007 – Future Coast

Future Coast – Organised and Sustainable or Chaotic and Dying?

We are an island Nation, no matter where we work live or play we can never be more than app. 75miles from the sea. We are one of the greatest Maritime Nations on earth. No longer the largest but certainly among the greatest.

The sea and our relationship with it has, arguably, shaped and moulded us as a people over many centuries. It is very much part of the British psyche.

The UK coastline is more than 19,000kms long. It is an environment of huge diversity and contrast. The coastal zone supports a large proportion of the population, 16.9 million. Our management of the coast has to strike an equable and sustainable balance between competing interests and objectives ie:

  1. Protecting vulnerable communities from the ravages of coastal erosion and sea flooding
  2. Ensuring sustainable economic development
  3. Providing a sound basis for tourism and recreation
  4. Protect the ecology of the coastal zone

The balancing act to achieve these four objectives may well be difficult but it is not impossible.

An added difficulty is their achievment against a backdrop of considerable uncertainty and wildly varying projections of what effect global warming, climate change and sea level rise holds for us over the coming century.

It is absolutely crucial if only for the sake of future generations that we adopt adequate and effective management structures and policies NOW capable of working through the coming problems in a sustainable way.

This begs some questions:

  1. Do we have effective management structures and policies in place now ? It is my earnest belief that we do not.
  2. Are we about to put effective management structures and policies in place? Again it is my belief that we are not.
  3. Are we going to continue the massive underfunding of the coast ? Yes all the evidence eminating from Government shows that we are set to continue coast management by default for fiscal rather than sound coast management rationale.

For some years now the Civil Engineering fraternity, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Local Authorities and various other groups have been warning Government much more needs to be spent on Flood Managament Infrastructure. Those warnings have largely gone unheeded. It is undeniable that Government has increased the annual budget but by nowhere near enough. The result of that unwillingness to invest at an appropriate level is clear for all to see in Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire et al.

Along with this many Maritime Authorities and again the Civil Engineering fraternity as well as other experts and groups have repeatedly flagged up and warned Government against continuing the massive underfunding of the coast and it’s infrastructure.

Unfortunately to no avail!

In recent and consecutive years the coast protection budget allocation has been reduced and reduced.

By way of example the 2005/6 “Flood and Coast Protection” budget was £570,000,000 of which only £47,000,000 was allocated to be shared by some 92 Maritime Authorities for coast protection. This year I believe the total budget is some £600,000,000 of which only £46,000,000 is allocated to Maritime Authorities for coast protection.

This is not accidental it is by design. Some years ago DEFRA launched it’s second generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) programme, these SMPs are designed to legitimise the underfunding. So confident were DEFRA that this would just happen they closed their regional coast protection offices. Obviously if you intend to effectively walk away from the coast and reduce the funding you do not need regional offices to oversee any coast protection works as there will not be any!

Whilst fluvial protection and coast protection have very different drivers and solutions the comparison is clear for all to see. Lack of funding is just as lethal in both areas. There is of course at least one difference in fluvial and coastal outcomes. Rarely is property loss total in fluvial areas but on eroding coasts total loss is the inevitable outcome for homes, businesses etc as a direct result of the withdrawal of support from Central Government with inadequate funding and policies.

What is it about the British Government and Civil Service that they choose to ignore all advice ( other than that which fits in with their lack of commitment) and wait for the cataclysmic event to happen with all the human misery and suffering it brings whilst eventually forcing them on to a more sensible, sustainable policy and funding path ?

I truly believe that time is running out on the coast, we are at a crossroads, the choice of future coast needs to be made without further delay. It really is make your mind up time.

Future Coast can be either:

  1. Organised, successfuly managed and sustainable
  2. Chaotic and dying on it’s feet

If it is to be option 1 then we need to embrace fully the EU recommended way forward, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy path with adequate funding. Result living working sustainable coast well into this century. If it is to be option 2 then all we need to do is carry on as we are and watch Central Government, Ministers and the Treasury fiddle while Rome burns.

Malcolm Kerby (25 July 2007)

July 2007 – wider comments

In common with many people and communities around the UK and beyond I would like to extend the sympathy and good wishes of Happisburgh to everyone who has suffered so cruelly from the major flooding incidents in recent times. We understand perhaps more than many the anguish and devastation of losing ones home and/or belongings. Yet again our deepest gratitude is due to the emergency services and armed forces who have to pick up the pieces.

Whenever such cataclysmic events occur there always seems to be a search for someone, anyone, to blame. Whilst the sheer scale of recent flooding has been immense it was as a result of really quite exceptional rainfall and weather patterns. Maybe an indication of what could be in store for us all with increasing global warming and climate change.

Could we have done more over the last quarter of a century to bring the infrastructure of both fluvial flood and coast protection up to a more acceptable operational standard? Yes of course we could and should!

Why are we constantly told by Central Government resources (money) are finite and we simply can not afford to do the job adequately or properly?

We, the people, really must bring Government to book on this. How can we not afford to spend our own money(taxes) on our own protection in both fluvial and coast protection terms yet our Government deems we can afford such hare brained projects as the Millienium Dome, an extremely questionable incursion into the middle east and the 2012 Olympics which we patently can not afford. These three items alone will cost the taxpayer (you and me) many, many BILLIONS of pounds. Along with that much has been handed out around the world in foreign aid.

All of which may be highly laudible but surely can only come (if we can afford it) AFTER the Government has invested OUR MONEY in making us as safe and secure from the elements and climate change as is humanly possible in our own HOMES AND COMMUNITIES.

Malcolm Kerby (25 July 2007)

July 2007 Comments – Selsey Sea Wall

Two pictures of yet another crisis in a coastal community. As can be seen the sea wall at Selsey has collapsed and created app. 40 metre gap.

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Obviously this needs repair as a matter of urgency. However I fear the financial problems will prove greater than the technical problems to overcome.

With Central Government effectively walking away from the coast how on earth will this or indeed any other Maritime Authority in a similar situation be able to cope financially.

The longer remedial action takes the worse (and more expensive) the solution will be. Unfortunately those with absolute responsibility, DEFRA, are busy trying to build a different kind of barrier. One which attempts to put not only the Maritime Authorities but now the Environment Agency between us (the problem) and them.

Typicaly British Civil Service, make the situation so complicated they can get away with doing nothing except talk about the problems for ever and dream up the most obscure ways forward. Anything except address the problem effectively at an early and cost effective stage.

It will be interesting to see what happens at Selsey against the backdrop of the upcoming second generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for this area and Central Government’s aversion to and perpetual underfunding of the coast.

Malcolm Kerby (22 July 2007)

June 2007 Comments

The Tyne to Flamborough Head Second Generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) is now coming up for acceptance or rejection by all the Local Authorities (LAs) throughout that coastal strip, a large area involving a number of different authorities.

Scarborough Borough Council is the Lead Authority on this SMP2. I was particularly disappointed to read a recent article in the newspaper Scarborough Today reporting that John Riby, head of engineering services at Scarborough Council is recommending to the elected members that they vote to adopt SMP2 saying that to do otherwise may put future funding for defences in jeopardy.

I would most strongly urge the elected members of all The LAs involved to look closely at the North Norfolk experience where our proposed SMP2 clearly stated that the defences between Sea Palling and Winterton, which protect the northern Norfolk Broads area, would be maintained for the next 100 years by annual beach recharge. Yet almost before the ink was dry on the SMP document funding for that area was withdrawn, significantly increasing the risk of a breach.

It is my absolute belief that it is completely wrong that DEFRA insists on trying to push SMP2s anywhere else in this country until the enormous problems the Pilot SMP2s revealed are resolved.

The most contentious of course is the complete lack of Social Justice within these plans.

I also believe that any elected member who votes to adopt any SMP2 which has no Social Justice measures built into it could be doing his or her electorate a major disservice.

Government is trying to force through SMP2s to minimise future spend on coast defences.

The SMP2 for this area, which we have rejected, significantly inreased risk to the built and natural environment with absolutely no measures in place or recommended to mitigate that risk for communities or individuals (Social Justice) and is therefore absolutely unsustainable.

Climate change and global warming are with us and there no doubt will be changes in our coast over the coming years. We should not be frightened of it nor should we shrink from addressing it.

New innovative policies and approaches will have to be found which must be firmly rooted in a socially just framework only then will they be sustainable.

Currently plans such as the Tyne to Flamborough Head SMP2 are bedevilled with old thinking dusted off to appear new and without Social Justice will completely disenfranchise an increasing number of people and communities.

I would suggest we must not allow that to happen, currently the best way to achieve that and protect all our coastal futures is to reject these incomplete Second Generation Shoreline Management Plans.

Malcolm Kerby (01 June 2007)

June 2007 Update – Coastal Defence Neglect Exposed

So the MPs and the National Audit Office (NAO) have now expressed what some of us have been saying for some years, see article COASTAL DEFENCE NEGLECT EXPOSED EDP 15th June 07.

From a Stakeholders viewpoint the central, core problem with coast protection in the UK is the massive underfunding over the last 25 years by central Government no matter who has been in power.

If you ally this to the utterly ridiculous way the management structure has been set out there can only be one conclusion : coastal chaos!

Firstly we have one Government department in overall charge of Flood and Coast Protection (F&CP), DEFRA . Those of us who have been closely involved with the subject will immediately identify the first major problem. That is the lumping together of Fluvial and Coastal management policy and approach. Quite simply this does not work. Fluvial flooding and Coastal Erosion/Flooding are distinctly different problems and have distinctly different drivers and solutions.

For far too long this confused approach has allowed Government to significantly reduce spending on the coast to positively dangerous levels. Let me give you an example of how they manage to make the majority think the spend on the coast is adequate.

In December 2004 the then Environment Minister, Elliot Morley MP, informed the House of Commons of the F&CP budget for the coming financial year, 2005/6, he said it was to be £570,000,000. Now that sounds like a significant sum but we have to remember there are app 90 Maritime Authorities in this country all of whom are charged with Lead Authority status for the coast protection of their area

When asked directly how much of that £570,000,000 is going to be spent on the coast the Minister’s reply included this gem along with all the spin and waffle ” £47,000,000 is going to the Maritime Authorities not all of which will be spent on the coast,some will be spent inland by the Internal Drainage Boards”.

So from a budget of over half a billion less than 47 million was earmarked for coast protection!

For an island nation such as ours surrounded on all sides by the sea, that is little short of positively irresponsible and scandalous. Oh yes, don’t be fooled into thinking that was a one off, it has been the same year after year and continues to be so.

To make matters worse the Environment Agency (EA) has now been given overall charge of F&CP, this is due to take effect from April next year. So the quango that has for years been addressing the fluvial problems is now going to be in charge of coastal erosion problems. That means the whole annual budget will be theirs to decide how much they spend on the coast and what the split between fluvial and coastal spend will be.

Some would say the EA has done a reasonable job in fluvial areas but are ill equiped to cope with the coast.

A second problem has been the rather confused messages to Government from the scientific community. I have been to many conferences and meetings and have listened to academics calling for a return to natural process on the coast. When are they going to understand that is quite simply not possible in many areas. I would wholeheartedly support the theory of natural process, our coastline is a living one which has been eroding, accreting, evolving over thousands of years and may well have been very different had we not used artificial methods of moderating that process.

Today the inescapable fact is that we have intervened in the past and we are now stuck with that and all of our future planning must recognise that we are starting from where we are not where we may well wish to be. So the call from some academics to return to natural process is not practical and is purely academic.

We all,stakeholders, scientists and policy makers have to understand that uk coast plc can not be preserved in aspic as it were, that climate change and global warming is undoubtedly going to severely test our coastal resolve and we must equip ourselves NOW (there has already been too much talk and not enough action) with management structures, policies and most importantly adequate funding that we are in a position to absorb the impact of rising sea levels and climate change the future may bring not just for our sake but for our children and their children.

Our current approach to the defence of the realm from the sea (and the 16.9 million people who live in the coastal zone) is confused, woefully inadequate and massively underfunded. It appears we are going to miss a rare opportunity by not making Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) part of the upcoming Marine Bill.

We need NOW a separate wholly autonomous department (see Alernative Governance) that is free and unconstrained by other responsibilities to manage the coast in a socially just effective manner adequately funded, within an ICZM framework that can manage this country’s coast in the best interests of all of the people that we and future generations are able to enjoy a viable, sustainable coast that can thrive and prosper in spite of sea level rise and climate change.

We are an island nation whether we like it or not, we either get on and address the issues or we wither on the vine. Perhaps a reminder of the European view is timely : when dealing with coast defence issues we must “pay due regard to coastal communities and their cultural heritage” and when determining coast defence policy ” the precautionary principle must always be applied “.

Our current approach will only ensure we pass on an unbelievably high (not just in financial terms) cost to future generations. That in my view would be a complete betrayal.

Malcolm Kerby (15 June 2007)

Happisburgh’s delivery of seaside rock

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 19 February 2007)

In the height of summer it is filled with tourist cars – but for the next few weeks it will be filled with massive lumps of rock.

The council car park on the clifftop at Happisburgh has been turned overnight into the holding area for hundreds of tonnes of rock, which will be used to create a new sea defence scheme for the village.

Deliveries started today for the project, which will take several weeks and is being led by North Norfolk District Council. The main £200,000 funding for the scheme has been provided by the council, with the village and its supporters making their own donation. That donation already stands at about £50,000 once the gift aid tax forms have been processed, but fundraising is continuing.

For the villagers it is much more than a simple sea defence scheme – for those on the very front line it means saving their houses from the encroaching sea.

“We have been redrawing our plans for the next few years because of this,” said Di Wrightson, who lives in Cliff House on Beach Road, where her clifftop back garden has gradually been disappearing into the sea.

“Instead of thinking about moving out in the next few months, we are looking at a possible extension of three to five years, although it is very hard to be exact.

“The fact is that without the last set of rock defences put in back in the winter of 2002, we would not be here now, so it clearly makes a difference.”

Miss Wrightson said the generosity of those who had given their own cash to top up the council pot had been “staggering”.

And she added: “You can’t help feeling people have almost been waiting to give money, but wanted to wait until they knew it would be useful.

“There is now a clear end use for it and we are hugely grateful to people who have given.”

Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group, said the number of deliveries had dropped from an expected 12 flatbed lorries per day to about eight because the quarry supplying the material was also sending rock to a similar project in Felixstowe.

But instead of being disappointed at the news, he was delighted.

“It demonstrates what I have been saying for a long time, there are many other communities around the coast which are in the same position as us.

“This is a clear example of the fact we have brother communities around the country who are going through the same process as we are.”

The first phase of the project will see rock stockpiled on the car park and on the field at the end of Beach Road. At some stage the rock will start being dropped onto the beach, after which it will be engineered into a two-metre high sill. Tides and the weather will be a significant factor in how long the work takes to complete.

To make a donation, call in to the village post office or log on to www.buyarockforhappisburgh.com where details of several payment methods are given.