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Mixed reaction to coastal ideas

PUBLISHED: 10:13 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:11 03 July 2010

THE government last night announced a raft of new ideas aimed at helping people who lose their homes to coastal erosion - but campaigners said that although the plans had merit, they still fell short of the full compensation package necessary.

THE government last night announced a raft of new ideas aimed at helping people who lose their homes to coastal erosion - but campaigners said that although the plans had merit, they still fell short of the full compensation package necessary.

Launching a three-month consultation into coastal change policy, Defra officials said they would create a new pot of £11m to help investigate how to address change. Local authorities could bid to become coastal change 'pathfinders' and access some of the money.

The Defra consultation will also discuss providing cash to meet certain costs of demolition and moving house for those faced with losing their homes to erosion.

But the suggested figures look to be limited to a maximum of £1,000 to cover removals and redirection of post and up to £5,000 to cover knocking down the threatened property. It would not extend to covering the value of homes, even if they had been previously defended and were now subject to damaged or removed sea defences, a key demand of coastal campaigners in recent years.

The documents make mention of the possibility of fuller compensation for people losing their homes and businesses, but this is not Defra's 'preferred option'.

Last night, leading coastal campaigner Malcom Kerby, coordinator of the Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG), said the consultation was “a significant step forward and a clear acknowledgment from government of the problems which exist”.

“I agree with much of what is said in the consultation documents, in fact I am pleased that much of the information within them comes from the input we at CCAG have had with the government over the last few years,” added Mr Kerby.

“It doesn't go far enough by any means, but at least the government has recognised there is a hole in the system that people are dropping through; they cannot deny that exists anymore. It is a step in the right direction and to some extent I take heart from it.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who chairs an all-party parliamentary group into coastal and marine issues, said: “If you are on the front line of this and you are told all you will get is the cost of demolition - which in north Norfolk is already paid for by the local authority - plus a little money to help you move house, it is insulting.

“This falls fatally short of what should happen, which is adequate compensation for the loss of a home if it has been previously defended and is no longer defended following a change in policy.

“The document mentions compensation but fails to advocate it - and that's deeply disappointing.

“Yes, there is a recognition of the need to address the impact of this issue on communities, but that's not enough.”

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said: “The sea will inevitably shape and mould our coastline, as it has always done, and we need the views of those who will be directly affected by the changing coastline on how we can adapt.”

To take part in the consultation, log on to www.defra.gov.uk

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