Land ownership row leaves Gypsy Nigel Cutting on the brink at Happisburgh
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
A man who is living on the edge of the crumbling cliffs at Happisburgh wants a council to give him a new piece of land before his caravan topples into the sea.
Nigel Cutting, a 41-year-old Gypsy and haulier, claims he owns the piece of land near Beach Road - a few yards away from the row of houses that North Norfolk District Council began to demolish last Wednesday.
And he wants the same treatment as the previous owners of the houses, many of whom were given 40pc of the value of their properties to enable them to move away from the advancing North Sea.
But the council said it was the owner of the land, and added that Mr Cutting’s property had fallen over the cliff “some years ago”.
A council spokesman said he had been offered a temporary site at the travellers’ transit bases at Cromer and Fakenham.
And he added that Mr Cutting was believed to be the owner of “at least two” other properties in the district that were being rented out.
Mr Cutting has called in Candy Sheridan, a former north Norfolk district councillor who is co-chairman of the Gypsy Council, to arbitrate.
Mrs Sheridan said Mr Cutting had been at the location since 1993, and added: “He’s being victimised. It’s his land. And even it wasn’t he’d have grandfather rights, having been here for more than 10 years.”
She also believed there was £200,000 left in the coastal pathfinder scheme - a pot of money provided by the government to enable the council to help communities and individuals deal with the effects of coastal erosion. The scheme enabled the residents of nine Beach Road homes to move.
Mrs Sheridan added that the situation was “inhumane and illogical”.
Mr Cutting said he had not registered the land with the Land Registry when he bought it, but had sent the documents to the council, claiming they proved his ownership.
He initially had a 32ft mobile home, but now has a small caravan and a trailer that he uses as a workshop for his haulage business.
He said: “I kept moving back to make myself safe. They should give me something the equivalent of what I’ve got.
“The council is trying to force me to do something I don’t want to do. It’s really worrying me.”
The council spokesman said the plot he said he owned - 66 Beach Road - had been lost to erosion, and said Mr Cutting had not lived there for 10 years, and did not pay council tax at a Happisburgh address until September 2011.
He said the council had corresponded with Mr Cutting over “many months” about the unauthorised storage of vehicles on the land he was occupying.
The spokesman said the land occupied by Mr Cutting had been bought from a third party as part of the pathfinder programme.
He said: “The position we have adopted in respect of land previously lost to erosion was that the date the core strategy was adopted – September 2008 - would apply to any assessment for payment under the pathfinder programme.
“In this respect we don’t believe that the council has any obligation to recognise Mr Cutting’s claim under the pathfinder programme as the land in which he had an interest was lost to the sea prior to September 2008.”
He added: “Obviously the reason that the council undertook the purchase and now demolition of the properties on Beach Road was due to the vulnerability of this coastline. Therefore we would encourage Mr. Cutting to relocate.
“We hope that Mr Cutting will very soon leave the location voluntarily. We can offer assistance to help him to move to a temporary site in either Cromer or Fakenham.”