Compensation battle continues for clifftop homes

Residents of a row of doomed clifftop homes in north Norfolk are still waiting to get firm compensation offers for their erosion-threatened properties.

A package of help through a government-backed scheme has been deferred over concerns the likely compensation figures of 40-50pc of the theoretical value will not offer enough to the affected people.

But while the local council says it is doing what it can within strict constraints, campaigners are calling for the deal to be the best possible - because it sets a precedent for other coastal communities in Norfolk and across the nation.

Eleven houses and bungalows on Beach Road at erosion hot spot Happisburgh will be knocked down once their owners have been compensated through the Pathfinder scheme, which saw North Norfolk given �3m to deal with the effects of coastline management changes including the abandonment of long-standing sea defences.

But a programme of measures, including setting the ground rules for setting compensation levels, has been deferred by North Norfolk District Council.

Cabinet member Clive Stockton said: 'basically there are concerns the council is not offering enough for the properties in Beach Road.'

Officials had done their best to up potential values, by allowing affected residents the chance get planning permission for replacement homes in otherwise barred locations, and additional weighting based on the kind of compensation given if homes were lost to motorway or airport projects.

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'Everybody in the council would love to pay as much as we possibly can, and we are - within the constraints upon us,' he added.

Mr Stockton hoped a meeting with locals on Friday had explained their problems and that the package could be agreed by council in October or November with a view to getting competition sorted and homes demolished over the winter.

But local Coastal Concern Action Group campaigner Malcolm Kerby urged the council to look again at the deal because 'it is about more than just a few houses at Happisburgh.

'We must get it right, and the best possible outcome for the sake of the futures of places like Trimingham, Mundseley and Overstrand locally and others nationally who will be in the same situation.'

Mr Kerby said it was right the council was being cautious over the way it spent public money, but he would be exploring at high level whether there was more scope for flexibility over some of the perceived constraints.

Beach Road resident Jane Archer, whose bungalow bought for �20,000 in 1987 was more recently valued at �1, said they had not yet had figures put on the table, but the formula was unlikely to provide enough for her to relocate in the village.

It might provide about �45,000 for a home she felt was worth about �160,000 in any other location, which was not enough to rebuild.

'We would take the offer and rent, which would cost us �8,000 a year, but it is difficult to find places around here because of holiday lets - or try to stay here as long as we can, and we could have another 10 years because we are not as close to he edge as some other homes.'

Ms Archer said: 'You get used to living but the council keeps dangling carrots and get your hopes up - and this will not help us move on.'