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Flood plans have blighted homes

PUBLISHED: 18:55 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:50 03 July 2010

LISTENING INTENTLY: The audience in a packed Potter Heigham village hall

LISTENING INTENTLY: The audience in a packed Potter Heigham village hall

Dominic Bareham

EMOTIONAL villagers packed a meeting this week to fight plans to allow the sea to breach defences and flood their homes.

The rallying cry from Potter Heigham was sent to everyone in the country to join the fight against surrendering their entire village to the North Seas.

TOP MARKS: Stradbroke Primary School

EMOTIONAL villagers packed a meeting this week to fight plans to allow the sea to breach defences and flood their homes.

The rallying cry from Potter Heigham was sent to everyone in the country to join the fight against surrendering their entire village to the North Seas.

Such was the strength of feeling about the plans that Potter Heigham village hall could not accommodate the 400-strong audience, and many had to stand outside the main entrance, listening in as North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb called for opponents to write to the government expressing their anger.

Most of the residents demanded social justice now for the potential loss of their homes, and not in 50 years when the Environment Agency's pledge to “hold the line” on sea defences in north Norfolk was due to run out, leaving coastal communities at the mercy of the sea.

The government would have to compensate them to the full market price of their homes, rather than the value of the properties after blight had taken hold. More than 450 homes will be affected, and residents were devastated to hear from some that the values of their properties will already be affected - even though the plans haven't been approved.

Under the proposals the sea would be allowed to breach coastal defences between Horsey and Winterton, flooding low-lying areas as far inland as Potter Heigham and Stalham, as well as parts of Somerton. New sea walls would be built in Potter Heigham and Stalham.

The area that would be affected is broadly the same as that which disappeared under water during the Horsey Floods of 1938, the most extensive floods in the area in living memory.

Land would be lost to the sea, eventually reverting to reedbeds and saltmarsh to create a habitat for wildlife.

Elaine Mumby, of Decoy Road, spoke of her fears for the impact the plans would have for her and future generations in the village, including her two daughters.

Mrs Mumby, 54, a teacher at Somerton Nursery School, reflected on the fact villages had already had to fight to keep their school in the mid 90s and were now having to fight to keep their homes.

She said: “I want to hand my home on to my children, so they can either hand it on to their children or at least to sell it. We have had to fight for the school and now we are having to fight for our homes and we should not have to.”

She added: “The government is chipping away at our village life. They want to take the post office, they want to take everything, it seems, but I think they should continue to defend the island of Britain and particularly the coastline which makes us what we are. It isn't about money, it is about quality of life. An Englishmen's home is his castle.”

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG), and Mr Lamb arranged the meeting - one of three taking place in the area - to answer questions relating to the plans, which included the possibility of taking legal action against the government under the Human Rights Act, 1988 (HRA) and North Norfolk District Council's budget for bolstering flood defences.

Mr Kerby said under the HRA there was a duty on government to protect every citizen's right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions and homes and Mr Lamb said he would make enquiries to see if the act provided any grounds on which to pursue a legal case against the government.

As far as council tax was concerned, Mr Kerby said the district council was dependent on receiving grant aid from Defra to bolster the sea defences, but in 2005/6 the government's budget was only £47m, which had to be split between all the coastal authorities in the UK and would not provide adequate defence for north Norfolk when the current value of sea defences in the area was £196m.

A copy of the document outlines the proposals, listed as option four of four for the Upper Thurne basin in the face of rising sea levels.

“Two retreated defences would be built at Potter Heigham and Stalham and land seaward of these would be breached, creating an embayment on the coast between Eccles-on-Sea and Winterton Ness,” it reads.

“The total flooded areas would thus be approximately 6,500 hectares. The broads (Martham, Horsey, Heigham Sound and Hickling) would become inundated by the sea, fen vegetation would be lost.

“It is likely over time that a spit would develop behind which coastal and inter-tidal habitats would develop.”

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