Flood defences - 'encouraging meeting'

Coastal campaigners from Norfolk have had an “encouraging” meeting with the man in charge of the nation's flood defences.A group of politicians, councillors from the north and east coasts and residents of seaside and low-lying Broads villages met Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith yesterday.

Coastal campaigners from Norfolk have had an “encouraging” meeting with the man in charge of the nation's flood defences.

A group of politicians, councillors from the north and east coasts and residents of seaside and low-lying Broads villages met Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith yesterday.

Afterwards an upbeat North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was very encouraged by the comments they heard.

The biggest breakthrough was hearing Lord Smith reveal a change of mindset to look at defending communities rather than have an apparent enthusiasm for abandoning them and writing them off.

He also accepted a case should be made for compensation for those properties lost to the sea.

Mr Lamb said the agency chairman acknowledged it was the most sensitive issue his organisation had to deal with.

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“He accepted they had in the past been guilty of giving the impression they wanted to give up land to the sea, and there was a need to get better at working with communities,” he added.

It was a very positive and encouraging meeting that also included EA chief executive Paul Leinster and was a “heartening recognition of the importance of defending communities”, said Mr Lamb.

Lord Smith also said he had been talking to Defra and Treasury officials about the issues and had visited Sea Palling while in Norfolk earlier this year to see the situation for himself.

It was a marked contrast to a ministerial meeting four years earlier which resulted in a blank rejection of any thought of compensation or recognition that affected communities needed to be treated fairly, said the MP.

Mr Lamb last night flew out to the Netherlands as chairman of an all- party group on coastal issues, to see how it deals with erosion and flooding.