Villagers dig deep for coastal defences

Hundreds of tonnes of sea defence rock will begin arriving at Happisburgh today - but behind the scenes is an extraordinary story of generous villagers digging deep into their own pockets.

Hundreds of tonnes of sea defence rock will begin arriving at Happisburgh today - but behind the scenes is an extraordinary story of generous villagers digging deep into their own pockets.

North Norfolk District Council has funded the project to the tune of £200,000. This will allow a significant scheme to go ahead, designed to provide protection from coastal erosion and to “buy time” while further efforts are made to find a long term solution.

But the tiny community of Happisburgh, with a certain amount of outside help, has managed to raise about £50,000 in individual donations in a month. This cash will be donated to the council, who in turn will use it to buy further rock to increase the size and effectiveness of the scheme.

With around 400 households in the village, the amount raised has surprised those behind the fund raising efforts.

“It is an extraordinary community reaction,” said Jack Hall, chairman of the charity Coastal Concern Limited (CCL), an associate body to the better known campaign group Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG).

The actual figure collected changes daily and is made more complicated to work out due to additional funds which will be available under gift aid rules. About £39,000 has been gathered from the community. This will mean another £7,000 to £8,000 can be claimed in gift aid. But fundraising has not yet finished.

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CCAG coordinator Malcolm Kerby added: “It is a phenomenal effort. The local authority will be able to create a scheme which is well over 20pc bigger than they imagined.”

Mr Kerby said he would like to appeal to the “whole of Norfolk” to get behind the fundraising effort, pointing out that the county as a whole was in the frontline of the battle against sea level rise, cliff erosion and coastal flooding.

The council's head of coastal strategy Peter Frew described the money raised as “quite staggering”. He also thanked local landowners for their help in providing space to store the large rocks before they are put on the beach. The rocks are being brought by road to Norfolk from Leicestershire.

t To make a donation, call in to the village post office or log on to www.buyarockforhappisburgh.com, where details of several payment methods are given.