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How human rights could save the Broads

PUBLISHED: 11:11 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:05 03 July 2010

A LEADING human rights lawyer says legal action could be taken if the government decides to allow the northern Broads to be inundated by the North Sea in years to come.

A LEADING human rights lawyer says legal action could be taken if the government decides to allow the northern Broads to be inundated by the North Sea in years to come.

Anthony Lester, a Lib Dem peer who sits in the Lords under the title Lord Lester of Herne Hill and campaigned for 30 years to make the European Human Rights Convention directly enforceable in British courts, has joined the debate after being approached by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

The prospect of losing 25 square miles of the Broads, including six villages, was raised in a now infamous Natural England report which was discussed in secret but leaked in March. The proposal has already caused property blight in the villages affected, with reports of house buyers pulling out of sales and values falling.

Lord Lester says it would almost certainly be a case for a future action rather than taking action now, because a judicial review could only be requested once a decision had been made. But this could be used as a threat to the government to prevent it making such a decision.

Mr Lamb said: “Lord Lester feels there are definitely serious issues to be considered here. He feels it is worthwhile exploring further in terms of human rights legislation which refers to interference with property rights, which come under the Strasbourg principles.”

Mr Lamb said the latest development added strength to his ongoing demand that the Broads flooding option be withdrawn from the Natural England report. Commentators believe three out of the four proposed options outlined in the report could lead to the coast being breached and homes and businesses being lost.

“Even if initially it was innocent scientists speculating about the future, it would now be callous to leave this option in place,” said Mr Lamb.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group, said Lord Lester's views were a “very worthwhile contribution”.

“For long enough I have firmly believed there is scope within the Human Rights Act for us to get redress.”


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