Speak up and we’ll be heard

Byline: By Edward Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 09 February 2005)

If enough people speak up about a controversial coastal plan, which effectively abandons parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, it will “fire a massive shot over the bows of Westminster”

That was the message last night as the first of four meetings run by the Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG) was launched – with people told it was absolutely vital they took part in consultation about the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). The meetings will continue later in the week at Mundesley and Overstrand, with the final gathering at Bacton on Monday.

As about 200 people packed into St. Mary’s Church in Happisburgh last night, they were told repeatedly that each and every one of them must take personal responsibility and contribute to the consultation.

The draft plan effectively suggests changing from ‘hold the line’ to ‘managed retreat’ at all but the larger towns between Kelling and Lowestoft.

If it were to be introduced in its current form it would lead to the eventual abandonment of many established defences, resulting in £250m-worth of property being lost.

Last night’s meeting was organized bay CCAG co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby and featured contributions from villagers and politicians, including North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and his Tory adversary at the next election Iain Dale.

Explaining the importance of the four meetings, Mr Lamb said: “Both Malcolm Kerby and I felt this whole consultation process would glide by with those people directly affected not being involved at all.

“I think it is very important we get across just how concerned people are.

“Whatever they call this, it is effectively an abandonment of the coastline.”

Mr Kerby presented some of the projected scenarios for the area, which look as afr as 100 years ahead.

Indicating the north wall of the church, he said: “By 2055, the sea will be lapping that wall there.”

He went on to urge everyone present to complete a response to the consultation process.

Mr Kerby said adopting the plan would be like “taking a flying leap in the dark”.

“Let them know how it’s going to ruin your life, how it’s going to take away everything you worked your whole life for. Everything you own hinges on this,” he said.

“If there are four adults in your household, that means four letters.”

When he asked the audience to indicate if they would like to see the plan rejected, everyone in the church appeared to put their hand up.

Sue Stockton, the district councilor for the area, had earlier asked the audience if they would like her to vote against the plan when it came up for discussion at North Norfolk District Council later in the year. Again she appeared to have full support.

Jim Whiteside, who runs the CCAG website, said that because of the SMP he did not know what the future held and added: “I want my future back.”

He also said he felt the plan was designed to “bamboozle” ordinary people, meaning they would not respond to it because of its complexity.

Shoreline roadshows underway

The first in a series of roadshows explaining the shoreline management plan was held at Corton yesterday.

Under the controversial policies, a large proportion of the small parish will be lost in the next 100 years.

By 2105, a total of 90 houses will be lost, along with 25 businesses, seafront holiday sites, the coast road, Methodist church, village pub and village hall.

Exhibition organizer Terry Oakes said he hoped the session would help local people understand the proposals and provide a chance to have their say.

Terry Morris, whose home overlooks the sea defences, said: “I think it is a lost cause. People should accept these plans and concentrate of pressurising the Government for compensation.”