New hope for coastal erosion victims

A “glimmer of hope” of compensation for people who lose homes, land and businesses through coastal erosion has been hailed by a rural campaign group.

A “glimmer of hope” of compensation for people who lose homes, land and businesses through coastal erosion has been hailed by a rural campaign group.

It comes after new environment minister Ian Pearson said the government would consider the issue - even though yesterday, his department said it was unaware of any discussions about compensation.

Last night, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb welcomed the “signifi-cant development” but warned there was still a lot of work to do as there were “no commitments, and no silver bullet to resolve our problems”.

Mr Pearson mentioned compensa-tion during a visit to Norfolk earlier in the year, and again to an all-party parliamentary coastal group, chaired by Mr Lamb. “The minister's comments are constructive and positive and there has been a remarkable change over the last 12 months from Defra being in denial of the problem, to a point where the minister is committed to maintain-ing a dialogue with us . . .” he said. Mr Lamb - along with the Coastal Concerns Action Group based at Happisburgh in his constituency, and North Norfolk District Council - has been at the forefront of pressing for “social justice” to help people hit by a controversial planned policy of “managed retreat” which could surrender homes and businesses worth millions of pounds to the sea.

Mr Lamb added: “. . . There are some big questions over who pays for compensation; the whole country or the areas affected?”

The minister's acknowledgement of the compensation issue was welcomed yesterday by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which was also at the all-party meeting. Its coast and flood adviser Jane Burch said: “Up until now such compensation has been ruled out but for the first time it appears that the government will at least consider it. We are delighted. It gives a glimmer of hope to coastal communities.”

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She added: “We have always under-stood that to achieve a sustainable coastline some land currently in agricultural production and in other rural areas occupied by only a few houses and businesses will need to be lost in the interests of the wider community. Our argument has been that in such cases, the losers must be properly compensated.”

Coastal action group co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby said it was “great that compensation is on the agenda and will be discussed at last” but called on the government to ensure coastal erosion did not take a back seat to flooding.

A Defra spokesman said last night: “There is no provision for any-one to be compensated by flooding or coastal erosion and we are not aware of any discussions that might lead to provisions being put in place.”