‘Queen Canute’ wants her Happisburgh home to be used for tree defence trial scheme

A Queen Canute whose home on a crumbling cliff edge will one day topple into the North Sea is offering her garden for an experiment to try and weaken the waves' power.

Bryony Nierop-Reading, the only remaining resident of an otherwise-demolished row of homes on Happisburgh's Beach Road, believes a tree defences scheme, aimed at slowing down coastal erosion, could work.

But one community leader says the idea is fanciful and another believes it is cruel in offering false hope.

Mrs Nierop-Reading and other supporters are now trying to form a new Happisburgh group aimed at getting permission for the trial.

The idea was explained at a public meeting in Happisburgh by Greg Peachey and Andrew Fletcher of the Watford-based Fredome Visionary Trust, who claimed it was already working in parts of New Zealand.

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It would see the cliff sloped, reinforced with gabion defences - metal cages filled with rock, broken concrete or similar substances - and planted with beach grasses to hold the soil, followed later by trees.

Mrs Neirop-Reading, 66, said she was 'incredibly excited' after the meeting, which had offered a ray of hope after depressing years of government negativity and watching the demolition of her neighbours' homes.

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If successful, she said the scheme would not only buy her more time in the setting she loved but might persuade others to take it up on a much larger scale.

'If we do nothing to stall erosion our country is going to get smaller and smaller,'' she said.

'We're prepared to protect the Falkland Islands thousands of miles away but when it comes to our own little island we sit and watch it disappear bit by bit.'

But Malcolm Kerby, of the Coastal Concern Action Group, said he personally felt the scheme was a 'complete waste of time' because government policy along the Happisburgh coastline was moving away from hard sea defences, such as gabions, and would not allow them to be used.

It would be better to concentrate on trying to change government policy, he said.

Mr Kerby felt Happisburgh residents had suffered a 'real bashing' over the years coping with the effects of coastal erosion. With the government Pathfinder cash, helping the community adjust to the changes, he felt they were now just about on an even keel again.

'To raise their hopes and expectations is just going to cause trouble and, in my view, is cruel in the extreme,' he said.

Glen Berry, chairman of Happisburgh Parish Council, said he felt the plan was 'pie in the sky'.

But Mr Fletcher defended the meeting and said they wanted to offer Happisburgh people real hope after years of being told nothing could be done.

He added: 'It's ridiculous to say it can't be done because government policy won't allow it. Governments do policy U-turns all the time.'

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