Officials snub invite to meet residents
Dominic Bareham NATURAL England representatives snubbed an invitation from MEP Richard Howitt to join him on a visit to meet beleaguered Sea Palling villagers.The conservation organisation cited the reason they did not want to speak to him “while residents were present.
NATURAL England representatives snubbed an invitation from MEP Richard Howitt to join him on a visit to meet beleaguered Sea Palling villagers.
The conservation organisation cited the reason they did not want to speak to him “while residents were present.”
Mr Howitt had asked officials to meet villagers whose homes and livelihoods were threatened by Natural England's plans to surrender a 25sq mile area of the north Norfolk coast to the sea.
But his request was declined and he said although he did not have it in writing, one of the government body's officials told him they would prefer to meet him in private rather than discuss the proposals with residents.
The wrath of residents threatened by coastal erosion has already been vented at Natural England at a series of public meetings in Potter Heigham, Sea Palling and Hickling.
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Last week the Mercury reported how Hickling Parish Council chairman Eric Lindo slammed the claim by Natural England chairman Sir Martin Doughty on a national newspaper website that his organisation was “showing leadership” in dealing with climate change.
Mr Lindo said: “Natural England's mission statement says that they are for people, places and nature in that order and when the present chairman Sir Martin Doughty was appointed he said it would put people first and I see no evidence of that happening.
“Now I see his announcement that we have to face up to the reality of global warming, but what they do not say is that a very small percentage of people have to deal with the cost of Natural England's plans.”
But Mr Howitt was pleased the plans were in the public domain because it would encourage debate.
He said: “I actually think it is very good this information is in the public domain. If there is a serious discussion of flooding and therefore evacuating six villages in my constituency then the people have a right to know and a right to protest and I have said that as a Labour MEP I will add my voice to a cross party petition to give more priority to repairing the sea defences along 50 miles of coastline than is currently being placed.”
The MEP for the eastern region has offered hope that a solution can be found through a European Union cross border project involving the Netherlands and Germany, which could attract funding to bolster the sea defences between Horsey and Winterton.
He said under European convention Norfolk qualified for funding from the EU and he aimed to form an alliance with representatives of Britain's European neighbours to tackle the threat to the coastline.
On Monday, Mr Howitt felt the anger of Sea Palling residents at Natural England's plans to surrender their village and five others on the north Norfolk coast to the sea over the next 50 years by allowing defences between Horsey and Winterton to be breached.
But he believed there was reason to be optimistic given the Environment Agency's plan is to hold the line on sea defences for the next 50 years and £7m had been set aside in its budget for this purpose.
“There is every prospect we will win this campaign and people should not despair,” Mr Howitt said.
Under the proposals the sea would be allowed to breach defences between Horsey and Winterton, flooding areas as far inland as Potter Heigham and Stalham as well as parts of Somerton.
Four options were outlined for tackling coastal erosion, one of which was to hold the line along the sea wall. The other three options were to do nothing and let nature take its course; to hold the line and maintain existing defences; and to adapt the line by moving coastal defences slightly inland.
Sea walls would be built in Potter Heigham and Stalham. The document suggests this action could be taken within the next 20 to 50 years.