January 2003 Comments

On Thursday 30th January the people of Happisburgh will have the very rare opportunity to make their case directly as a unified determined force. As I write this I have still not received confirmation from the Secretary of State’s office that she will attend our meeting nor indeed, has there been any indication as to whether or not any government member will attend.

Government can not plead ignorance of the acute,critical problems faced by Happisburgh and it’s environs in terms of sea defences,or rather the lack of them. In an address to the House of Commons last year the Rt. Hon. Tim Boswell MP said “I will always remember inspecting the crumbling Norfolk cliffs at Happisburgh and being made uncomfortably aware that any major sea incursion through the cliffs could surge straight through the Broads. Once the sea got though there would be little to stop it. The Association of British Insurers,which briefed me for the debate,said: We believe that Government investment in flood defence is vital if affordable insurance is to be available. In other words, an individual’s ability to protect themselves economically depends on there being a Government commitment, just as an individual’s physical security also depends on that commitment.”

I also have before me a copy of a Select Committee on Agriculture report to Parliament and the Government, it is a rather lengthy document so I shall quote a few relevant parts, this part is referring to the reefs at Sea Palling: “The Environment Agency has provided sea defence for the Norfolk Broads behind this low lying section of coast by constructing a broken line of offshore reefs … as well as reducing the risk of erosion, these sea defences have ALTERED THE PATTERN OF EROSION ALONG THE COAST.” Amazingly further in the same report the following is stated: “The dangers of the erosion at Happisburgh outflanking the reef scheme at Sea Palling ARE SELF EVIDENT, but have not yet been effectively absorbed by the process so as to justify defence works.”

Government is, at best, confused and unclear on the issue. What is crystal clear however is Government’s bounden duty to either protect or compensate in full those who incur losses as a result of it’s negligence in it’s failure to take all reasonable measures to protect.

Malcolm Kerby (26 January 2003)