Meeting called in Happisburgh to discuss how ‘tree defences’ could turn back tide

An idea that harnesses the power of trees could help an erosion-threatened Norfolk village to begin to turn back the tide, it is claimed.

The back to nature scheme would see rows of trees planted on the crumbling clifftops to provide a green line of defence against the North Sea at Happisburgh.

A public meeting has been called in the village to sell the idea to residents, who have seen a host of homes devoured by the sea in recent years.

But an 'infuriated' Malcolm Kerby, of Coastal Concern Action Group, feared that residents' hopes would be raise unnecessarily.

He said: 'The scheme simply cannot be fulfilled as the Trust just doesn't understand the constraints placed on what you are able to do on the coast.

'There is no point speculating if it will work because it will never happen. They will raise hope and expectation among people who the scheme cannot be delivered too.'

The two men behind the idea claim it is already working in parts of New Zealand, where rows of trees have been planted to provide 'living sea defences'.

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Andrew Fletcher and Greg Peachey from Fredome Visionary Trust are targeting Happisburgh as a pilot area for the scheme, which would see the cliffs re-shaped to slope, with salt water-resistant trees planted on them and other trees planted on the clifftop.

Mr Peachey, former co-owner of Sheridan Group - which included management consultancy and web development - said the roots of the trees would 'bind the soil' and make it more able to endure the sea's barrage.

And he added that the presence of the trees could 'encourage moisture' and make the nearby farmland more fruitful.

He said: 'Trees and bushes are brilliant at trapping coastal sediment and binding it together. The root system does the work below ground.'

He said the system would begin with defences like those in Torbay, Devon, where the cliffs are sloped and the debris is put in metal baskets on the slopes.

Phase two would be to plant trees, which would eventually grow large enough to shore up the cliffs.

Mr Peachey said it was 'early days' in terms of funding it, but suggested external funding could be applied for. He also said part of the plan would be to get members of the public to gather tree seeds and saplings, nurture them at home and plant them once they were robust.

? The meeting is at Happisburgh village hall at 7pm on Thursday June 14. To reserve a seat, visit www.erosion.eventbrite.co.uk.

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