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MP fails to get report withdrawn

PUBLISHED: 10:28 11 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:12 03 July 2010

An MP fighting plans to surrender thousands of acres of Norfolk to the sea has spoken of his anger and frustration after meeting senior executives from the government agency behind the proposals.

An MP fighting plans to surrender thousands of acres of Norfolk to the sea has spoken of his anger and frustration after meeting senior executives from the government agency behind the proposals.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, had written to Natural England formally asking it to withdraw its draft report setting out four options for dealing with the consequences of climate change in the northern Broads.

The last of these was a proposal to abandon nine miles of sea defences between Eccles and Winterton, flooding an area stretching inland as far as Stalham and Potter Heigham, with the loss of 25sq miles of land, including at least six villages.

Mr Lamb asked Natural England to withdraw the report, claiming no proper analysis had been made of the cost of abandoning the area and that the issue of compensation had not been considered.

He said people living in the area were already suffering the effects of planning blight, with house sales falling through and property prices falling, after details of the proposals were leaked.

Natural England's chief executive Dr Helen Phillips wrote back to Mr Lamb, saying: “I am not persuaded that withdrawing the report or the fourth option within the report would serve a useful purpose.

“When we issue the final report, we will stress the need for society to plan how it needs to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Publishing our report will, hopefully, inform this process.”

Yesterday at Westminster Mr Lamb met Andrew Wood, executive director of Natural England, and Shaun Thomas, East of England regional director, who reiterated that Natural England would not withdraw the report.

After the meeting Mr Lamb said: “They now accept if you're going to look at some long-term option you have to look at the social implications. That is in itself an advance, but their approach contradicts that and it's not happening in tandem.

“Their reaction was they still intend to publish. I have made it clear I think it would be callous to publish in these circumstances. I accept they were doing their work, looking at the long-term predictions, but now they know the consequences of their work reaching the public domain, they can't stand idly by and let those communities suffer.

“I made it clear I was very angry and frustrated that they appear to be unwilling to consider either cost-benefit or the issue of social justice before we look at the environmental considerations.”

“I'm appalled by this situation. I think they have got a responsibility to these communities. I don't see that anything would be lost by withdrawing this now so that there can be a more rational debate with those communities protected.”