Planning officer blasts sea defence plan

Byline: By Stephen Pullinger (Eastern Daily Press, 14 March 2005)

The Government’s proposed sea defence strategy of managed retreat was attacked by Norfolk’s longest-serving planning officer for failing to take account of the real cost to people.

Yarmouth planning officer Mike Dowling described the draft shoreline management plan currently out for public consultation as “purely an engineering study”.

He said: “One of its weaknesses is that it has not looked at the costs of managed retreat.

“It is not just the cost of losing your houses and bungalows, but the cost to the coastal trade, the Broads system, footpaths, what’s left of the fishing industry. The whole area will be impacted.”

He addressed some 250 people at a meeting at Hemsby on Saturday and most were horrified after examining maps – many for the first time – showing the impact on their communities of the preferred option.

They heard an estimated 55 seafront properties at Newport and Scratby would be lost within the next 50 years and holiday developments and infrastructure would be hit. One hundred years down the line, Caister would have lost its seafront holiday centres and caravan parks as well as 50 commercial and residential properties.

Mr Dowling said he was surprised by the lack of public response so far, adding: “We have got to have community involvement. Malcolm Kerby, in Happisburgh, proves that, if you make yourself a thorough nuisance, you will get noticed.

“I hope you tell the Government these proposals are inadequate because they have not taken into account everything that will be lost and the serious implications for the Broads as a freshwater environment.”

Mr Dowling said it was possible problems might crop up as few as 10 years down the line, with property values hit and families finding it difficult to sell their homes.

Steve Ashton, a parish councillor from nearby West Somerton, told the meeting the plan included no balance sheet to show the true costs in rates and rents from lost businesses, in rehousing people and on tourism, sailing and fishing rights.

“Why would you destroy what has taken centuries to build up?” he asked.