Erosion: Minister looks for ways forward

Byline: By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 23 August 2006)

Beleaguered villagers who fear the sea will swallow up their homes were given a glimmer of hope today as a government minister surveyed the state of the north-east Norfolk coast.

Environment minister Ian Pearson made no bold promises of a cash injection to save communities like Happisburgh from a watery grave.

But he pledged to begin dialogue on an issue that has previously been dismissed out of hand by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – compensation, or social justice, for people whose homes and livelihoods are lost.

Mr Pearson said: “I know how serious the problem of coastal erosion is. We need to look to find new ways forward.

“I want the government to seriously engage on this issue and I want to have a debate about social justice for the coastal communities.

“I have a lot of sympathy for homeowners that bought properties, say, 20 or more years ago and had the expectation that they would be defended forever.”

He added that he wanted to see the government, the district council, the Environment Agency, English Nature and local people getting together to “look at ways forward”.

But he said: “We’ve got 4,000 miles of coastline and we can’t defend everything for all time.”

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG), who was outspoken in condemning Mr Pearson’s predecessor Elliot Morley, said he was “hugely impressed and encouraged” by the new minister.

He said: “Obviously we can’t expect any minister, particularly one who’s so new in post, to come here with a basket full of promises.

“But clearly he’s a thinker and an intelligent man. He was a very brave man to come to the most troublesome stretch of coastline in the country, with the most vociferous people.

“However, if he doesn’t measure up in the future then we won’t be frightened about giving him a rough ride.”

Mr Pearson was taken on a tour of the coast, including Sheringham, Cromer, Overstrand, Happisburgh and Sea Palling.

He saw at first hand the devastation wrought by the sea at Happisburgh, where dozens of homes have fallen over the cliff in recent years.

And frustrated residents in a number of the villages told him how their homes have been “blighted” by the draft shoreline management plan, which proposes only protecting the main towns and leaving the rest undefended.

Jack Hall, who lives in Happisburgh, told him: “People find it manifestly unfair that this generation is the one generation that will lose everything. There’s got to be a way out of this.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who helped to broker today’s visit, said he was “encouraged” by Mr Pearson’s comments.

He said: “I think it’s encouraging that we are now engaging in dialogue and he’s listening to us and appears to accept some of the principles.

“But it’s a step by step process. There’s no breakthrough yet. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Protect our coast, ministers urged

By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 06 July 2006)

Worried coastal residents have been given new hope as council leaders defied the government over plans to let the sea swallow up clifftop communities in north Norfolk.

Leaders of North Norfolk District Council refused to sign up to the controversial shoreline management plan (SMP), which advocates “managed retreat” of all areas except the main towns.

The document is designed to outline how the coastline from Kelling to Lowestoft will be managed for the next 100 years.

Council chief executive Philip Burton said: “We will not sign the SMP. We are not going to be browbeaten by a fear of government grant being withdrawn. Ninety-nine per cent of people rejected the proposals, and that’s our starting point.”

Deputy leader Clive Stockton said: “There is no way we are going to sign up to the SMP unless it addresses the issues for the people of north Norfolk.

“If we cannot defend the entire coastline, there’s got to be a managed situation where people are compensated and helped to get over losing everything they own.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb agreed, and said: “I find it remarkable that the consultants can imagine that it’s politically viable or indeed right for the council to support it, given the strength of feeling through the consultation process.”

The defiance came as coastal residents promised “anarchy” after a last ditch bid to include the need for compensation in a key component of the SMP collapsed.

There was anger in April when a response to public consultation about the SMP overlooked more than 2,500 objections and brushed over the issue of compensation for residents who could lose their homes.

North Norfolk council was asked to add a foreword to the response by consultants Halcrow, spelling out the “social justice” issues.

But the attempt collapsed because the members of the officer-led client steering group involved could not agree the wording.

The group comprises north Norfolk, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Defra, the Environment Agency, English Nature and Great Yarmouth Port Authority.

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group, said: “I have already told the client group that if they publish this without the preface there will be anarchy.

“The whole thing is unacceptable as it stands. It should be withdrawn now and no further attempts made until social justice is built into it.”

Anger over coastal defence document

Byline: By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 03 July 2006)

Campaigners in threatened clifftop communities promised “anarchy” last night after a spat between officials over wording left the case for compensating homeowners out of a key coastal defence document.

There was widespread anger in April when a response to public consultation about the shoreline management plan (SMP) for Kelling to Lowestoft overlooked more than 2,500 objections.

It also brushed over the issue of compensation for the thousands of residents who could lose their homes and livelihoods if the plan to allow “managed retreat” of the coastline at all spots except the major towns goes ahead.

North Norfolk District Council was then charged with the task of adding a foreword to the response by consultants Halcrow, spelling out the “social justice” issues.

But last night it was revealed that the attempt had collapsed because the members of the “client steering group” involved in drafting the foreword could not agree the wording.

Now the members – North Norfolk, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, Defra, the Environment Agency, English Nature and Great Yarmouth Port Authority – are faced with having to receive the Halcrow report, even if they do not all agree with it.

Malcolm Kerby, from Coastal Concern Action Group, said the situation was “disgraceful”.

He said: “I have already told the client group that if they publish this without the preface there will be anarchy.

“The whole thing is unacceptable as it stands. It should be withdrawn now and no further attempts made until social justice is built into it.

“If it goes out as the response there will be uproar. Quite simply, we are not having it. If some idiot from the government comes along here and says we’ve got to sacrifice everything in the public interest, they can think again.”

The Kelling to Lowestoft stretch is one of three pilot areas for the second generation of SMPs, which are being drawn up to govern the defence of the coast for the next century.

When it was initially published, there was uproar at the policy of “managed retreat”, which would leave communities like Overstrand, Mundesley and Happisburgh undefended.

It now stands unadopted and with no statutory power – leaving threatened communities in limbo.

Peter Frew, head of democratic, legal and property services at North Norfolk, said: “The foreword could not be drawn up because of the differing views of the client steering group.”

He said the SMP was “unlikely” to be adopted by the council as it stood, but added: “I have a concern that if we don’t adopt it in full, it will be more difficult to secure grant aid for coastal defence work.”

The latest twist came as it emerged that a promised visit by the new environment minister, Ian Pearson, could slip back into the autumn.

Mr Pearson, who took over from Elliot Morley in May’s reshuffle, was keen to visit the north Norfolk coast before the Commons’ summer recess begins on July 25.

But holidays and commitments at both ends mean the visit is likely to be September at the earliest.

Villagers’ DIY bid to protect coast

Byline: By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 12 June 2006)

A new era was dawning for a threatened clifftop commun-ity in Norfolk today as residents were on the brink of getting crucial support to pay for their own sea defences.

The do-it-yourself bid to turn the tide is likely to get the blessing of North Norfolk District Council after 17 years of failed attempts to get government cash to bolster the cliffs at Happisburgh.

As a succession of houses were swallowed up by the sea, residents grew increasingly fearful that theirs would be next – so they set up Coastal Concern Ltd to raise money for the work needed.

Today, the council’s cabinet is expected to give its support to the group’s bid to raise at least £750,000.

And, in an unprecedented move, officers are urging members to agree to the council carrying out the work itself – using the money raised by Coastal Concern.

The dual recommendation is crucial, as members of the public do not have the legal right to carry out sea defence work without council support.

Last night, group spokesman Malcolm Kerby said if cabinet endorsed the move, it would be the “green light” for fundraising.

He said: “If we could raise £750,000 – the cost of the last scheme that didn’t happen – then we could hopefully get other funding support to top it up. Then we would be in business.”

He said a positive decision today would enable the group to begin to approach villagers and businesses for financial support, and to formulate a fundraising action plan.

The potential breakthrough comes a few days after local campaigners were buoyed by supportive comments from environment minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Kerby said: “We’ve now got every tier of national and local government declaring its intention to work with us. We’re not going to raise millions overnight, but I hold out a lot of hope that we will succeed.”

The council has submitted a host of proposed schemes to protect the Happisburgh cliffs, but each bid has been rejected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Ministers have said the value of the homes that would be saved does not match the potential cost of a scheme.

The situation has echoes of that of Suffolk’s King Canute Peter Boggis, who dumped thousands of tonnes of soil and building waste on to the beach to stop his home from toppling off the clifftop.

In November last year he had to abandon his efforts because of changes to waste management laws.

Mr Boggis did the work at Easton Bavents, near Southwold, initially without the permission of Waveney District Council – while the Happisburgh initiative is being done in liaison with the council in north Norfolk.

Today’s cabinet report says the council should carry out any work paid for by Coastal Concern “to ensure the technical criteria are met”.

It says: “The council has responsibility for a larger length of coast than just Happisburgh and must ensure that any works there do not affect other lengths of coast unduly or adversely.”

Minister pledges to see coast

Byline: By Edward Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 09 June 2006)

The government’s new environment minister last night promised to visit the Norfolk coast to see for himself the problems of erosion.

Ian Pearson – who took over the portfolio last month after the resignation of Elliot Morley in Tony Blair’s reshuffle – made the pledge during a Westminster meeting with a delegation of politicians and campaigners from north Norfolk.

The meeting was between Mr Pearson, Defra officials, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, Happisburgh-based coastal campaigner Malcolm Kerby, North Norfolk District Council’s deputy leader Clive Stockton and Peter Frew, a senior officer at the council.

The minister described the issue as “emotive and difficult” for commun-ities. He said although there were no easy solutions and the coastline had never stopped evolving, he was keen that all sides worked together “to look at what might be possible”.

“The concerns of residents in north Norfolk are clearly important, which is why I have decided to see for myself the challenges some of our coastal communities are facing. We need to manage the problem across the country as effectively as we can and make best use of the large sums we are investing. I recognise we need to try to identify ways to help communities affected by the changing coastline to adapt.”

Mr Kerby described the meeting as “extremely positive”, adding that the new minister appeared “entirely different” from his predecessor.

It is understood the visit will be before the summer recess which starts on July 25.

Mr Lamb was encouraged by the minister’s offer after years of trying to get Mr Morley to the coast, and the new man’s apparent under-standing of the need to include “social justice” considerations in coastal management. But he was “very cautious” about how much progress would result.

Coastal residents left in limbo

Byline: By Steve Downes (Eastern Daily Press, 29 April 2006)

Thousands of people on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast were in limbo last night, as another political row blew up.

Consultants were accused of “bizarre” behaviour after their response to 2,500 objections to a plan to stop defending much of the coastline was ignored.

Critics said the long-awaited report by Halcrow about public consultation on the draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) did not address the issues of compensation and social justice for those whose homes could be washed away.

Now officers are penning a “foreword” to the document.

Last night North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was “flabbergasted” by Halcrow’s response, a year after the public consultation closed.

He said: “What planet are they on? To come back after reading so many objections and still miss the fundamental issue of social justice seems remarkable.”

Environment minister Elliot Morley has agreed to meet a delegation from north Norfolk in London on May 17, including Mr Lamb, coastal campaigner Malcolm Kerby and deputy council leader Clive Stockton.

Communities are under threat if the draft plan’s “managed retreat” policy is adopted – including Overstrand, Mundesley, Happisburgh, Winterton and Scratby.

Halcrow was commissioned to carry out the latest work as part of an attempt to adopt the SMP, which covers the coast from Kelling to Lowestoft.

The draft plan advocates letting all parts of the coast go except the main towns – the current plan proposes defending the whole coast.

It has been put together by a group of organisations, comprising North Norfolk District Council, Yarmouth Borough Council, Waveney District Council, English Nature, the Environment Agency and Great Yarmouth Port Authority.

The group received Halcrow’s response to the public consultation a few weeks ago, and ruled that it was “unsatisfactory”.

Mr Stockton said: “The SMP doesn’t address people. The Halcrow report has ignored the fact that there were 2,500 objections.

“It effectively dismissed them as irrelevant. But this is a process that could condemn huge numbers of people to a watery end.

“We need to attach another document to the SMP, which addresses the consequences for real people on the coastline.”

Mr Kerby said: “We are in limbo. All the time this new SMP is held at bay, the old policy stands.

“People deserve some answers.”

MPs take on coast issues

Byline: (North Norfolk News, 26 January 2006)

A POWERFUL cross-party set of MPs will re-establish an influential pressure group designed to take important coastal issues to the heart of Government.

Headed by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and featuring MPs with. coastal constituencies from around the UK, the group will act as a forum for debate – and attempt to sway Government policy.

The All party parliamentary Group on Marine and Coastal Issues will hold an initial meeting on February 9 in Westminster, at which they will set out some of their objectives.

On that date they will also hear a presentation from Norfolk campaigner Malcolm Kerby, who has spearheaded the coastal erosion effort at Happisburgh for several years and taken his lobbying effort into the debating chambers of the UK and Europe in the process.

Last night Mr Lamb said the intention was to provide a platform for discussion about all sorts of coastal and marine issues, but that erosion and sea defence looked set to play a major part in discussions.

“It will bring maritime MPs together in one place at one time and provide a chance for us to work together across the major political parties.

“Interested parties can look at the issues, formulate policy options and encourage wider political debate and action on the coast.” Mr Kerby said the creation of the all party group was evidence of the Norfolk experience with coastal problems reaching a wider audience.

“There are some MPs out there in other parts of the country who have shown precious little interest along the way, but they have finally realised they and their constituents are going to be touched by these issues.

“It is an example of the ripple effect, we are at the epicentre here in Happisburgh and North Norfolk in terms of campaigning, but the word is spreading to communities around the country.”

The group has been set up in conjunction with CoastNET, an international networking organisation that works with a wide range of organisations to fmd long-term solutions to coastal problems.

Back in Norfolk, Mr Lamb and Mr Kerby also intend to set up a local group open to the likes of parish councils, community groups, leisure organisations and individuals. The group would meet regularly and exchange information about the latest changes in coastal issues.

Mr Kerby said the group could go some way to helping solve the “vexed question” of when to call public meetings to pass on information to the communityand also to ensure that information was as widespread as possible. “The meetings would be regular, whether that is quarterly or whatever, and act as a way of staying in communication with everyone who has an interest in what is happening along this coastline.”

Mr Lamb said the most important aim of the group was to “keep people in the loop”.

We have to prioritise fairly

Elliot Morley:

YOUR report of (January 12): “Anger over cash freeze for sea walls”, usefully drew attention to the challenge we face in dealing with flood and coastal erosion risk, but may have left your readers with the impression that the Government is not concerned about the problem. Quite the opposite is the case.

One measure of our commitment is the increased funding we have made available – up from £310 million in 1996/97 to £570 million this year, a 35 per cent increase in real terms – which has improved protection to coastal communities up and down the country.

People whose property is at risk understandably want measures in place now. However, we have to prioritise proposals fairly and we do so using a published and objective system based on the benefits each proposed project is likely to provide which also reflects the urgency of the works. We need to ensure those at greatest risk get priority.

I must emphasise that inland and coastal projects are considered on an equal basis and that it is entirely wrong to suggest there is any bias against coastal projects. On top of the many millions of Government funding that the Environment Agency will invest on our behalf in managing the risk of sea flooding, direct Defra funding for local authorities next year will increase to £74 million, the vast majority of which is for coastal erosion projects. This is £19 million more than planned. There is no “indefinite moratorium” or “freeze”.

On the contrary, we have successfully committed record funding for capital works in 2006-2007 to a large programme of ongoing improvement projects. Because the budget is also substantially committed for 2007-2008 we will not be able to fund any more projects to start in 2006-2007. However, we do have uncommitted funding for 2007-2008 and I will be reviewing the position in the autumn to see what further projects we can fund from 2007-2008 onwards.

We will take account then of the many beneficial projects around the country awaiting grant aid, including the one at Cromer.

Elliot Morley, Minister of State for Climate Change and the Environment

Response to Minister’s letter to NNNews

Let me begin by saying I do understand and appreciate the complexities and difficulties facing the Minister and his department in the matter of coast protection. Their task is indeed an onerous one, however it is not helped by the delivery of misleading information unintentional or otherwise.

The second paragraph of his letter is grossly misleading. I do not doubt the figures he quotes from 1996-97 to this year are correct but they are the combined FLOOD and Coast Protection figures.

If we look at the 05-06 budget of £570million,it seems really good until under closer scrutiny you discover that only £47million is the actual amount for coast defence in the entire UK.

So in fact only £47million is available to be split between over 70 Maritime Authorities (like NNDC) and Internal Drainage Boards (IDB’s) the rest, £523million, goes to flood areas predominantly inland.

To put that into perspective the recently completed coast protection scheme put in place at Scarborough which was scheduled to cost £28million but ended up costing some £53million (£25million over budget) used up £6million more than the entire UK coast protection budget!

Indeed when you look at the REAL figures you see that whilst the overall FLOOD and coast protection budget allocation has risen over recent years the actual amount going to coast protection has reduced and apparently will continue to be reduced.

The publication of the Government think tank report the Foresight Study in 2004 drew attention to the fact that successive administrations have consistently and massively underfunded coast protection over the last 25 years. In my view all of the foregoing is about as clear an indication as you can get that the system is disproportionately and unfairly slewed against coast protection in favour of inland flood protection.

I am staggered that the Minister appears to be proud of this biased situation, he says ” direct DEFRA funding for local authorities” such as NNDC “next year” (06-07) “will increase to £74 million, the vast majority of which is for coastal erosion projects.” That figure is a fraction of what is desperately needed. There is an urgent need for those at huge and imminent risk to get a fair share of available funds. Currently the arbitrary benefit / cost criteria and point score system applied by DEFRA seems to ensure funding is moved away from the coast inland.

With regard to future spending, everything I have seen from DEFRA seems to indicate there is a freeze on coast protection with no further funding or commitment for two years and no indication of what will happen three years hence. How on earth can the Maritime Authorities be expected to operate on that basis let alone plan ahead?

Quite where that leaves the Cromer scheme is anybody’s guess.In my view we might as well kiss it goodbye,as with everything else along this coast as soon as we seem to be able to qualify for funding and get a scheme DEFRA move the goalposts and leave us offside!

What I do think is deplorable is that NNDC were given the nod to prepare a scheme on the understanding that the time was now right, spend £140,000 getting to this point to be told only now funding will no longer be available. Hopefully the Minister will do the honourable thing and authorise full reimbursement.

Malcolm Kerby

Forests on the Seabed

Byline: By Georges Weser (Neue Zuercher Zeitung International Edition, 27 September 2005)

The sea is eating into England – the government looks on

Cornwall appears to be smaller than on Ptolemy’s map. The reason far that is that for centuries the sea is taking British coastline. In the South of England and on the North Sea coast whole villages are threatened by the advancing erosion and when they disappear, the British people will lose an integral part of their way of life.

A spectacular example of how the sea has always defined the geography of the British Isles is St. Michael’s Mount which towers out of the Cornish coast. By high tide this rock with its castle, the British counterpart of France’s Mont-Saint-Michel, is separated from the mainland. In the past, according to the chronicles of the monk, William of Malmesbury, it was situated in a forest between five and six miles inland. Not only the Cornish name for St. Michael’s Mount – “the grey rock in the forest” appears to confirm William’s entry in his chronicles: the remains of a sunken forest can just be made out on the bottom of the bay. Apparently the whole of the Cornish coast is bordered by forests and valleys which have been swallowed by the sea. In the Bristol Channel divers have also chanced upon the remains of sunken forests – according to a respected geologist this section of the sea is “the largest underwater valley in Great Britain”. This means that Somerset and Wales were once separated only by the Severn River.

“Making Room for Water”

The fact that this is preoccupying whole communities along British coastlines is with good reason. Global warming in particular is contributing to a rise in sea levels at the rate of approximately five millimetres per annum; and the continuous coastal erosion has recently become an acute danger in many places. The village of Fairlight Cove in East Sussex is just such a case. The rocky cliffs already collapsed in the late nineties and over five years huge limestone blocks as well as five houses disappeared beneath the waves. Although officially the coastline at Fairlight is supposed to have an erosion rate of 1.45m per annum, according to a report in 2003 it could well have been 25m. The report recommends that all the inhabitants in this “critical area” at the mercy of the sea should abandon their homes.

The same situation exists in the area between Flamborough Head and Spurn Head in the North-East of England as in Fairlight in East Sussex. The coastline there is also not made of robust rock. As a result this land too is yielding to the sea. In fact, this had fatal consequences as a glance in “the Doomsday Book”, a record of 34 English counties set down during the reign of William the Conqueror, confirms. Since this register was compiled between 1083 and 1086, 26 in all of the villages mentioned along this particular stretch of coast have disappeared beneath the North Sea.

According to an article which recently appeared in the Observer, the destruction of the British coastline by the sea could mean the loss of their homes for hundreds of thousands of people. And what is the government doing? The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which has overall responsibility has published a report entitled “Making Space for Water” – which means that people who live on an endangered stretch of coast are being advised to make room for the incoming water. They cannot insure their homes, nor is the State, which considers protecting the coast too expensive, offering compensation. No wonder that some inhabitants of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast believe that they can hear the knell of doom tolling for them. Dunwich was once an impressive port but today lies for the most part at the bottom of the sea. On still days when the tide is out the ghostly sound of a church bell is said to be heard from beneath the water.

Happisburgh in Norfolk had been founded by the Danes long before the Normans came. For centuries the sea had eaten away the cliffs here and since 1958 the village had put its trust in wooden sea defences. However in 1990 a storm destroyed a section of this construction. As soon as the defences were breached, the sea swallowed up the land behind them. Although the local council promised to build a concrete wall, after a second storm tore half a dozen houses down from the cliffs, the local authorities appear to have abandoned Happisburgh. At present the total of houses which have been lost since 1990 stands at 26. According to a recently published report, even the parish church could have disappeared in fifteen years. It is therefore possible that nothing will remain in 2020 of the village of Happisburgh as we know it today.

The sea level is set to rise by 5 millimetres per annum “and five millimetres per year is a lot of water!”. On a cold, stormy day on the edge of the North Sea, Malcolm Kerby, the coordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group, has to shout to be heard. Kerby is standing on the edge of the cliffs and turns and points to the nearby houses along the Beach Road. “These houses are unlikely to survive the end of the year!” As Kerby says it is not possible to describe this as a rocky coastline. The ground beneath the Beach Road is composed 70% of silt, 29% of sand and 1% of shingle. Since the land behind Happisburgh is below sea level in places, this village with its sea defences formed a bulwark for the whole area. If no measures are put in place to stop the erosion of the coast, villages such as Lessingham and Hempstead can already be submerged in ten years.

Nostalgia and History

Whereas the coastal communities of Great Britain once lived from fishing and smuggling, in the 19th century they became the favourite destinations for weekend and summer tourists. Since then villages such as Happisburgh have come to embody a part of what the British people love and consider to be “their way of life”: one just has to think of houses with unlocked doors, ice cream comets, deckchairs on the beach and the rhythmic sound of breaking waves. At any rate that is how these places are held dear in the minds of many romantics. However if they disappear one day into the sea, so will their memory vanish with them. In Happisburgh graveyard lie 119 of the 400 men who lost their lives when HMS Invincible went down after sailing from Yarmouth in 1801. Their bodies were washed ashore here. These 119 mariners have moved nearer again to the coast after the destruction of the wooden sea defences. The sea appears to be demanding their return.

Objection to coastal management document

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

An overwhelming number of people have objected to a controversial coastal management document which caused a furore when it was published last year, figures obtained by the EDP reveal.

A staggering 99.6pc of more than 2400 people taking part in a recent public consultation process objected to a draft Shoreline Management Plan proposing ways of governing the stretch of coast between Kelling and Lowestoft.

The consultation attracted 2430 responses from individuals and organisations, with all but 10 objecting to the policies in the plan.

Those policies effectively seek to change the thrust of coastal management from “hold the line” to “managed retreat”.

The full detail of the consultation process will be made public later in the year, possibly in September or October.

But the headline figures have been revealed in a letter from the Environment Agency to North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and confirmed to the EDP yesterday by Lowestoft-based Terry Oakes Associates, the company contracted to carry out the consultation.

Mr Lamb and Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group, headed up a number of public meetings earlier this year where the SMP was discussed and almost universally criticised.

Last night Mr Lamb said he was very pleased with the number of people who took part in the consultation and also the weighty percentage who objected.

“It confirms the value of having the series of public meetings along the coast,” he said.

“My real fear was that unless we went out and told people about the SMP, it could have slipped through without people realising.

“We stopped that happening and people have responded very well, much to their credit.

“I would have been amazed had more people supported this SMP, in fact my only surprise is they managed to get up to 10.”

Mr Lamb was particularly encouraged by an Environment Agency statement that said they were unable to see how the SMP policies could be adopted in the face of such opposition.

Mr Kerby also welcomed the figures and said: “What we are talking about here is, as near as damn it, unanimity.”

Award to coastal defence leader

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 18 June 2005)

Years of hard work were rewarded when two north Norfolk stalwarts were given civic awards.

John Sweeney, chairman of North Norfolk District Council, presented awards to Malcolm Kerby and David Gosling at a council meeting on Wednesday evening.

Mr Kerby was commended for setting up the Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG) in 1999, through which he has campaigned for sea defences at Happisburgh and given international recognition to the problem of coastal erosion.

“Malcolm is a classic example of an ordinary bloke who put his head above the parapet,” said Mr Sweeney.

Mr Kerby said his award reflected the efforts of many people. “I am very proud to accept this award, which is not for me but for the CCAG and for the people of Happisburgh,” he said.

David Gosling received his award in recognition of his work for the people of the North Walsham area, in particular as chairman of the town’s Area Partnership, which works with the council and other bodies to encourage community links and projects.

Coastal protection engineer Brian Farrow was also honoured, being presented with a picture in recognition of his 25 years of service to the council.