December 2002 Update

We now learn that the latest casualty in Happisburgh’s ongoing battle with the sea is our Lifeboat launching ramp! How much longer is the Government going to absolve itself of all responsibility here? How much longer can HM Government unload its responsibilities for our Sea Defences onto North Norfolk District Council? The situation here is critical. Government investment is long overdue and urgently needed. The level of investment now required is way beyond any Local Authority’s financial capability ! It seems increasingly likely that Westminster will only react to serious consequences i.e. loss of life! They seem set to continue ignoring our plea for help and North Norfolk District Councils repeated efforts to address the problem in a timely fashion. My message to Messrs Blair, Beckett and Morley is thus : You are failing absolutely the people of North Norfolk in a total dereliction of your duty and responsibility to protect every citizens right to the enjoyment of his or her home and family life. It is entirely within your power and capability in every respect to afford that protection. All that is lacking is the will to do so!!!

With the closure of the lifeboat ramp there is no longer any access to the beach at Happisburgh of any description. This will, I feel sure, have a knock on effect on businesses here which rely on the summer trade for their very survival. Tragically this may also be reflected in the popularity and value of property throughout the village. Happisburgh is not alone amongst coastal villages or towns whose greatest asset is their beach. Indeed part of the local economy is geared to it as well as it being one the attractions for those wishing to move in to the area. There has been a view promulgated for some time now that Beach Road is not part of Happisburgh this was recently stated by a Parish Councillor at a Parish Council meeting. What an absolutely ridiculous statement to make. Others hold the more sensible view that Beach Road, in terms of sea defences, is the very bastion of Happisburgh, surrender that and you put the very heart of the village at risk. Quite why the Parish Council have consistently opposed the latest scheme for the protection of the village and sought objectors to oppose it remains a mystery to many. Had the sea defence works been put in place it is fair to assume that confidence would have increased, business would have been secure and the value of property would have risen, probably in excess of the regional or national average.

For too long now Happisburgh has surrendered too much without a fight. We must all make the case that we will not surrender any more arable land, ( so important to the rural economy ), any more residential property or allow the caravan sites, shop, guest houses and public houses to suffer nor surrender the lifeboat station, of which many of us are justifiably proud, without a damned good fight. We must all carry the fight to the very heart of Government. On this issue no matter where we live in Happisburgh we are all ‘our brothers keeper’. To the two objectors and those who sought their objections, I would say : You have done immeasurable harm to this community, you have caused much suffering and you have placed many more homes at risk. Get out of our way, your meddling and interference is not welcome and has cost us dear.

Malcolm Kerby (30 December 2002)

December 2002 Comments

The main sea defence strategy produced by H.R. Wallingford and proposed by NNDC is now lost. Fortunately NNDC has undertaken interim works under emergency powers at it’s own expense.

Let us be crystal clear about these interim works (the purchase and placement of approx. 4000 tonnes of rock), this will not be the final solution, it simply buys us some time to seek the final solution i.e. adequate, effective sea defences for Happisburgh in it’s entirety.

Whilst our District Council Officers and elected members have lived up to their responsibilities, in what are financially difficult times for local authorities we must continue to impress upon central Government that simply because we have responsible and effective local Government does not mean that they are ‘let off the hook’. Absolute responsibility for the protection of all it’s citizens rests with the Government of the day and the Whitehall brigade.

I believe there is a basic human rights issue here under Article 8 of the Bill of Human Rights adopted by this nation in the Autumn of 2000. Central Government in the form of DEFRA is in dereliction of it’s duty to many around our coastline. They are failing to protect the individual’s right to enjoyment of his or her home and family life, when it is quite within their capability to protect and ensure said enjoyment.

I believe the Coast Protection Act 1949 is now a 53 year old ‘blunt instrument’ with which to tackle coast protection in the 21st century. That act ( and indeed the revetments/defences constructed in the late 1950’s and 60’s as a result of it) was created and brought in to being when we as a nation were effectively destitute after the second world war and long before global warming was ever thought of. Not only is the act itself outmoded the DEFRA interpretation of it is somewhat questionable.

Why do we not have a level playing field with non cliff bound communities? It seems to me that if you happen to be a community living with cliffs then DEFRA discriminates against you. That may be okay if your cliffs are of granite as opposed to ours which are clearly just earth and clay, making both them and all around extremely vulnerable.

Here in Happisburgh we have to endure the ‘Westminster double whammy!’ not only are we coastal but we are also very much a rural community. The Government of today and it’s Whitehall mandarins seem to be hell bent on the persecution of rural communities and it appears, some coastal communities. This is not just unfair, it is a contravention of our basic human rights. All this at a time when the Government has slashed financial support for District Councils thereby making life not just in rural coastal areas but everywhere, that much more difficult than before.

My message to central Government, Whitehall mandarins and indeed DEFRA is quite simple really; we are sick and tired of your indifference (in some cases incompetence), we are sick and tired of your finding any and every excuse to do nothing. Get off your backsides, act now and act in our interests not yours.

If you agree with my views e-mail Margaret Beckett MP, Tony Blair MP and DEFRA. Please put your own comments and feelings on the petition or the forum.

Malcolm Kerby (21 December 2002)

November 2002 Comments

Whilst there can be absolutely no doubt that the loss of the proposed scheme for sea defences at Happisburgh can only be regarded as a major setback for the village and its environs, we must also recognise the success of what has been achieved. The precedent for capital expenditure at Happisburgh has now been set. This in itself is, I believe, a major step forward.

I would take this opportunity to congratulate our District Council coast protection team and our District Councillor; their commitment, diligence and sheer hard work on our behalf has been outstanding. I know I am not alone in offering a most sincere thank-you to them. Keep up the good work guys – “We ain’t dead yet!”

My greatest regret is that the more extensive proposed scheme was scuppered to a large extent from within our own community. There are those who really should hang their heads in shame.

Since starting the CCAG website, we have been greatly heartened by the comments and feelings expressed in support of both Happisburgh, and our cause. Keep them coming – they will demonstrate quite clearly to those in power the breadth and depth of feeling. Use the forum – it is your opportunity to say what you feel and ask questions, all of which we will endeavour to answer in the same manner as we have conducted the campaign: with an open, honest approach without fear of any individual or organisation.

Malcolm Kerby (30 November 2002)