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Everyone in West Norfolk could pay for sea defences at Snettisham, Heacham and Hunstanton

PUBLISHED: 10:25 28 February 2011 | UPDATED: 10:32 28 February 2011

Repairs to sea defences are under way at Heacham and Hunstanton. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Repairs to sea defences are under way at Heacham and Hunstanton. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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Every resident in West Norfolk could be charged for maintaining sea defences to secure the future of the area's coastline.

Who’s going to pay for defences?

The report suggests three ways funding could be collected:

Affected parishes: Residents £10 (band D); Businesses: £220 (per £1,000 of rates); landowners: £810 (per 100 ha) Utilities: £2,200 per utility

Everyone in West Norfolk: £4 (in affected areas) £2 everyone else Band D; Businesses (directly affected) £29 or £14; landowners (directly affected) £72 or £38; utilities (directly affected) £740 or £370

Everyone in borough (flat rate): Residents £2; businesses £19; landowners £46; utilities £480.

Defra has just closed consultation on proposed changes to coastal defence funding in the future. It is expecting to spend £2.1 billion on flooding and coastal erosion over the next four years.

A report by Sir Michael Pitt (who conducted a review after the floods of 2007 in the South West) says that funding in the future has to be looked at and suggested that those who directly benefit from flood protection could contribute more money.

A new report outlines different ways of paying for defences between Wolferton Creek and Hunstanton.

Councillors will discuss the North Norfolk Coastal Change Pathfinder Programme document tomorrow.

It warns future funding for defences faces “considerable uncertainty” and other sources of income need to be identified.

If government funding disappears then up to £800,000 a year may need to be raised through local contributions just to maintain and repair defences.An Environment Agency spokesman said alternative methods of funding were continually being looked at as national funding became more limited. “We are trying to involve community groups and local groups. More and more it will be money from different pots,” she said.

Options suggested in the report include a contribution from everyone in the borough, which could be doubled for those living five metres below sea level – which would include large parts of The Fens.

Businesses and land-owners would also contribute – with bills ranging from £810 for those owning more than 100ha (247 acres) of farmed land in a parish directly affected, to £220 per £1,000 of payable business rates for companies in affected parishes.

If every parish in the borough contributed, the cost could be £2 on the average Band D Council Tax bill using current figures. If the sea level differential was imposed then the rates could be £2 and £4 respectively. If the cost was only split between the parishes involved (Hunstanton, Heacham, Snettisham, Dersingham and Ingoldisthorpe) then it would be a £10 rise.

Brian Long, portfolio holder for environment at West Norfolk Council, said consultation carried out in the coastal area had seen positive feedback from businesses and individuals when it comes to protecting the coast.

“These are just suggestive figures and assume no contribution whatsoever from anywhere else. We have had positive feedback from all the stakeholders involved.

“It is a two-fold issue as firstly there are those who directly benefit from the defences, including business and residents, and then there is the wider benefit in terms of how much the area puts into the local economy. It is a long-term view and the figures are just indicative.

“We all benefit in the wider sense because it is a beautiful piece of coast with important wildlife habitats,” he said.

Pam Hardy, chairman of Terrington St John Parish Council, 23 miles from Hunstanton, said the threat from the sea could not be under-estimated.

“It is only my personal opinion – and I’m not in favour of paying more – but it has to be protected and you can’t expect the people of the Hunstanton area to pay for it all,” she said.

The report suggests that businesses would pay the greatest total – 76pc, of the bill – with residents paying 14pc, landowners 7pc and utilities 3pc.

Future funding for the defences was outlined in the Shore Management Plan (2) which is a government policy document on the future of our coastlines. It said a “joint approach” to funding would have to be investigated as future bills may have to be met from a combination of sources – including local funding.

In 2009 Defra announced 15 authorities who would receive financial support to investigate the issue with North Norfolk Distric Council and its partners, including West Norfolk Council, securing cash.

“The frontage has been chosen because there is considerable uncertainty over the potential for future funding of sea defences and tidal flooding could have significant impacts for businesses and residential properties,” said the report, due to go before West Norfolk Council’s regeneration and environment committee tomorrow.

The project is being managed by Risk & Policy Analysis, based in Loddon, which is due to make its presentation to the meeting. The company has been aksed to lead the project and has compiled a report on an “equitable mechanism for securing contrubutions.”

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