Campaigner who fought for coastal defences dies

With mayor Cllr Malcolm Bird

With mayor Cllr Malcolm Bird - Credit: Archant

Warm tributes have been paid to a gentleman campaigner whose quiet, determined efforts helped to bring a £600,000 coastal defence scheme to a vulnerable Norfolk village.

Ten years ago the Government ruled out any protection for erosion-hit Scratby leaving dozens of homes at risk and threatening the seaside economy.

For engineer Jim Bratton it was a call to arms, triggering a long campaign which overturned Government thinking and secured a legacy that has saved some 135 homes.

He died on Christmas Day, aged 79.

The scheme to lay 1,300 gabions (rock-filled cages) along almost a kilometre of unprotected sandy cliffs was completed this year.

Leading the tributes Robert Stephenson, chairman of Scratby Coastal Erosion Group (SCEG) and fellow founder, hailed his quiet way of getting things done, adding: 'Everybody loved him. It's just a great loss to the community. He was a real champion.'

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: 'He was a lovely guy who genuinely cared about that stretch of coast and did his homework. He always cut to the chase, but was immensely polite with it.

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'He was pretty much apolitical, he was just interested in what you were doing.'

Former Labour MP Tony Wright said every minister had been impressed with how the campaign had been waged 'logically and sensibly.'

'It was all about the actual project, that was the main thing - the people in the community losing their homes and encouraging the Government to take them seriously. He was a true gentleman,' he added.

Mr Bratton was born in Watford, an only child. He went to Watford Grammar School and worked for Kodak in the town, retaining a life-long passion for photography.

National Service saw him posted to Singapore in the RAF.

He met and married his first wife in Watford and they had two children James and Sandra. Later he emigrated to South Africa where he set up his own anti-corrosion company and met his second wife Sheila.

After ten years they returned to the UK to Aberdeen and then to Norfolk where they fell in love with Scratby.

Son James said he had never seen a more devoted couple. He added that his father was passionate about helping others.

As well as working hard in the background for SCEG Mr Bratton was also chairman of the Scratby and California Club and for the Esplanade residents group.

For many years he was also the Great Yarmouth Mercury's village correspondent reporting on community issues and events, stepping back only recently due to ill health.

Friend and current correspondent Linda Lodge said Mr Bratton was an easy man to warm to, highly intelligent and with a quiet wisdom that meant he always gave good advice.

She described him as a good friend who kept his humour to the end.

Mr Bratton was also involved in the local bowls scene and was chairman of Ormesby outdoor bowls.

In October, Age Concern handed him a special award for his dedication and service to his village.

He leaves two children and three grandchildren. His wife Sheila sadly died in October.

The funeral service has yet to be arranged.

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