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Planning guidelines could be relaxed

PUBLISHED: 10:18 02 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:10 03 July 2010

COMMUNITIES being eaten away by coastal erosion in north Norfolk are set to get a helping hand in their battle against blight.

Villages are not just fighting to shore up their sea defences, but also trying to stop their crumbling cliffs sterilising local life by putting a block on progress.

COMMUNITIES being eaten away by coastal erosion in north Norfolk are set to get a helping hand in their battle against blight.

Villages are not just fighting to shore up their sea defences, but also trying to stop their crumbling cliffs sterilising local life by putting a block on progress.

Moves are afoot to relax planning guidelines to allow more flexibility for developments, extensions and changes of use inside “no go areas” likely to be lost to erosion.

The ideas, to be discussed today, aim to strike a balance between stopping people putting lives and property at risk, while keeping communities vibrant.

It could mean allowing a caravan park to retreat on to a nearby field, a struggling pub to become a house, or a temporary community building to be allowed on threatened land - but all with a time limit on them.

Planning officer Rob Young said: “We need to do something to keep communities viable and sustainable, by looking at what can be done without storing up problems for the future.”

He said that allowing some alternative uses, extensions and fixed-term commercial uses gave control over the buildings' lifetime. And exceptions to policy could also be made to help buildings with community uses, such as a village hall, to help local life.

Cabinet member Clive Stockton, who runs a pub in the erosion-hit village of Happisburgh, said: “Without this, coastal communities will be facing having areas of land, which have been refused permission for housing, set in aspic.

“This is an attempt to show there are other possible uses, rather than just lying fallow.”

The guidelines will work alongside the main planning policies, which restrict development in the erosion areas - covering most of north Norfolk's cliff-lined coast barring the key locations of Cromer, Sheringham and the Bacton gas terminal, where sea defences are due to be maintained.

All other areas face dealing with an emerging national policy of allowing the coast to retreat in a more natural way - but it leaves long-established communities, many of them reliant on holiday trade, having to adjust.

Mr Stockton said the guidelines could not be firmed up into policy until there was more detail on a national “adaptation” scheme aimed at helping communities adjust to the changes caused by erosion.

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