Erosion trip leaves mixed feelings

John Owens COASTAL erosion campaigners were left with mixed feelings following the visit of a high-powered government official to hear their concerns and ideas. Minister for marine and natural environment Huw Irranca-Davies MP dropped in at various sites along the Norfolk coast to find out more about plans to defend the shoreline from an encroaching sea.

John Owens

COASTAL erosion campaigners were left with mixed feelings following the visit of a high-powered government official to hear their concerns and ideas.

Minister for marine and natural environment Huw Irranca-Davies MP dropped in at various sites along the Norfolk coast to find out more about plans to defend the shoreline from an encroaching sea.

One of the areas visited was Hopton, to which he had been specifically invited by Tony Wright MP.

Here, he heard first hand about the fierce debate surrounding a report released by the borough council last week saying that the outer harbour was not to blame for Hopton's rapidly-dwindling beaches, as well as erosion-fighting suggestions such as the creation of an artificial reef.

Brian Hardisty, chairman of the Hopton coastal action group was among those voicing concerns to the minister and was reassured that Mr Irranca-Davies had promised to do what he could for the area.

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He said: “I was satisfied with him coming and in terms of the reception we got we couldn't hoped for any better. He could be the man who can do something for us if they still are in power after the next election.”

However, fellow member of the erosion group and master mariner Barry Collingwood said that though the visit was positive in that it had brought the issue to wider public attention, nothing concrete had emerged from it.

Also urging action sooner rather than later was prominent business man Brian Potter, whose leisure resort overlooks the sea. He said:

“It's very good that the minister came to see the problems we're facing since the outer harbour was built but whether or not in the due course of time something will be done remains to be seen.

Something does need to be done because if it's not then the ground that we're standing on could be gone.”

As part of his visit Mr Irranca-Davies also visited Scratby, where he discussed the Pathfinder project for which the borough council has been awarded nearly �300,000.

The money, which comes from a national pot, is designed to encourage new approaches to the problem of coastal erosion specifically in that area.

Mr Irranca-Davies emphasised the importance of including the community in the process, and of considering 'soft' defences like buy-to let schemes.

He said: “It's one thing to look at maps but it's another to come out and meet the people involved. This is about making sure we have as many tools in the toolbox as possible to deal with this situation.”

The minister also reassured the Scratby coastal erosion group that their efforts to extend the rock berm defences by 1km from California would not be compromised by the Pathfinder project.

These reassurances follow the announcement in January by borough council coastal manager Bernard Harris that he was confident that the �3.1m berm defences, which would protect hundred of homes, were likely to become a reality.

Jim Bratton, secretary for the Scratby coastal erosion group said: “We're always very pleased to see senior government ministers showing an interest and it gives us hope for the future.”