Report on risks to coastline criticised by campaigners and MP

Stock photo of the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Ian Burt

Stock photo of the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

'We've been warning them for years.'

The sunrise over the Norfolk coast. Picture: Keith Jones

The sunrise over the Norfolk coast. Picture: Keith Jones - Credit: Archant

This was the reaction of a north Norfolk MP, a parish councillor, and a coastal erosion campaigner to a government report on the risks posed by rising sea levels.

Experts in the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have produced the 'Managing the coast in a changing climate' report which warns it is not 'viable' to save many coastal communities from flooding and coastal erosion.

The report highlighted the storm surge of 2013 which hit Norfolk in December that year, as well as the 'devastating impact' of coastal erosion in Hemsby.

But North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, Happisburgh Parish Council chairman Glenn Berry, and coastal erosion activist Malcolm Kerby all said people in north Norfolk had been warning about the problem 'for years'.

Happisburgh lighthouse. Photo: Paul Carver

Happisburgh lighthouse. Photo: Paul Carver - Credit:

Mr Kerby, from Happisburgh, who founded the Coastal Concern Action Group, said: 'I was delighted the report found the government's approach not fit for purpose. I've been telling them for 20 years, it just doesn't work. It's massively underfunded.'

He added: 'There are places we can't defend but what's needed is an adaptation policy.

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'If it was adequately funded, you would still have a community in Happisburgh in 2050 - just a few kilometres inshore.

'There's a lot of hot air about how we can reduce our carbon footprint, but we've got no control over other countries.

'What we've got to be looking at is planning for getting through the anticipated effects and getting out the other side. The only way we can do that is with a clear policy.'

Mr Berry, also from Happisburgh, said: 'We've been trying to talk about it for ages.

'The warnings have been going on for about 18 years.

'The process they've got in place in Happisburgh is a managed retreat so they're not going to do anything.

'Happisburgh is experiencing now what they're warning will happen in the future.'

And Liberal Democrat MP Mr Lamb added: 'We've known for years that there was a threat.

'In 2004 a report highlighted the risk of coastal erosion in north Norfolk.

'The fact sea levels are rising drove that report to be written. In a way, this is nothing new.

'The scientists all tell you that you can't put a hard defence around the whole country, but we should defend everything we can.'

What is NNDC's role?

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) is jointly responsible for managing risks to coastal communities.

The Environment Agency oversees the strategy for the whole coastline, and is the responsible authority for both coastal and river flooding.

NNDC maintains coastal defences and related coastal infrastructure between Kelling Hard and Cart Gap; completes coast protection projects, such as the Cromer Coast Protection Scheme; and carries out maintenance in line with the area's shoreline management plan.

A council spokesperson said: 'NNDC works hard with partner agencies to prepare and implement appropriate shoreline management plans, which provide estimates of how the coast is likely to change over the next 100 years.

'They take into account the future implementation of coastal policies, geology, likely impacts of climate change and the existing condition of the coast including coastal defences.'