Crumbling coast in line for £2m help

Byline: By Edward Foss, Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 05 December 2006)

Coastal erosion hotspot Happisburgh is first in line for a slice of a potential £2m package of emergency sea defences over the next 10 years.

The raft of repairs is aimed at buying time while the bigger issue of longer-term coastal management is debated at national level.

North Norfolk is playing a major role in those talks, which are for the first time looking at the thorny question of whether people losing property and homes under the controversial policy of managed retreat should get compensation.

North Norfolk District Council’s deputy leader, Clive Stockton, said they were trying to buy time by funding repairs over the next 10 years, while drawing up new coastal planning policies aimed at preventing problems in the future.

They were also seeking changes to the controversial Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) to provide more social justice and talking to the government’s Defra officials over issues such as compensation, which would be the “hardest nut to crack”.

The draft SMP sparked huge protests when it suggested “managed retreat” at many previously protected villages, which would have resulted in millions of pounds of homes and businesses being lost to erosion over the next 100 years.

Peter Frew, council head of coastal strategy, said there was no objection to about 70pc of the recommendations, but there was to the idea of switching sustainable communities to managed retreat. The council and other campaigners would continue to fight their case in a bid to address the SMP’s consequences and make it deliverable.

Mr Frew, who now represents councils on the Defra working party looking at how to deal with erosion and flood issues, said it was a major step forward in recent months that the government was at least talking about compensation.

It was no guarantee it would happen, but until those issues had been decided, hopefully in time for a government spending review next year, the council wanted to maintain its current defences.

The first stage of a suggested £2m programme of temporary measures will be discussed at NNDC’s cabinet on Monday, with the funds being drawn from capital reserves, and the council prepared to lose the interest it would have generated in a bid to help the communities in danger.

If agreed, Happisburgh would get £200,000 of extra and re-engineered rock to protect homes in the Cliff Road area.

The 10 years plan also includes:

  • Sheringham – rebuilding the east promenade wall;
  • Sheringham to Cromer – revetment repairs, and removal if they are a hazard on the beach;
  • Overstrand – repairs to the wall below the promenade;
  • Trimingham – safety work on revetments;
  • Mundesley – major groyne refurbishment and work on the walls;
  • Bacton to Walcott – refurbishing the deck and joints of the sea walls;
  • Happisburgh – further work at Low Light, with rock protection at an exposed sea wall.

The spending plans and latest situation will be outlined to the full council on December 13, and to a meeting of coastal parish councils the following evening.