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Plan for local fund to help coast

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 February 2011

Di Wrightsons' home Cliff House, Happisburgh.
She has agreed a price for her home with the district council and will be moving out in March.
Her home is right on the cliff edge at Happisburgh.

Di Wrightsons' home Cliff House, Happisburgh. She has agreed a price for her home with the district council and will be moving out in March. Her home is right on the cliff edge at Happisburgh.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Plans for a "DIY" pot of cash to help tackle coastal erosion problems around Norfolk are being promoted by two local MPs.

"There won’t be buckets full of money from central government for the foreseeable future so let’s find a way of tackling the problem ourselves."

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb

Under the scheme local people would pay a small sum - such as £5 a year - from their council tax which would be ring-fenced for coastal schemes ranging from emergency defences to projects to help erosion hit communities adapt to the changes affecting them.

It was first mooted last year by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb when he put it to environment minister Richard Benyon during his visit to the area to see the impact of erosion and the measures trying to mitigate it, and which saw him show an interest in plan.

Now Mr Lamb and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis have met with decentralisation minister Greg Clark, who has also given his backing to the idea.

Mr Lamb said a coastal levy could be done under existing legislation, but the new Localism Bill would also allow residents to call for a referendum on the issue.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb

The aim was to initiate a debate on the fund idea - which was not a substitute for government funds, but a chance to provide an extra pot which gave more local control over the future.

The move comes as it was revealed that most homeowners on an erosion-hit lane at Happisburgh had agreed compensation deals, using part of a £3m kitty of cash that is part of a government Pathfinder scheme helping coastal communities adjust to their problems.

The proposed new local fund - which could be done on a district or county basis - could generate cash for coastal management, or sale and leaseback schemes which helped people with property in at risk locations and removed property price blight from their communities.

Mr Lamb said: “For years, people living on the coast have waited patiently for the Government to provide the cash to manage the coastline effectively.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis

“But while the threat increases, the funding hasn’t. We believe that it is time for Norfolk to take control of its own destiny. The coast is incredibly important to the county’s economy yet we feel we have no power to do anything to protect it.”

And Mr Lewis added: “Residents in affected coastal areas have been frustrated by the red tape and government dictates of the last few years and I am delighted that the coalition government has realised that and is keen to act to remove those barriers to action.

“This could allow Norfolk freedom to look after our Norfolk coastline and our communities to take control of their own destiny.”

Mr Lamb said it was unlikely any referendum would be done in time to coincide with this May’s district and parish council but could be ready for the county council polls in three years’ time.

“Government ministers appear to be supportive, and this is a key example of how we can transfer power from Whitehall to Norfolk.

“There won’t be buckets full of money from central government for the foreseeable future so let’s find a way of tackling the problem ourselves. But we need to make the political argument that the coast is of value to the county as a whole,” he added.

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