Dismay greets compensation offer of 50pc

Campaigners pushing for compensation to be given to owners of clifftop homes at Happisburgh have said that the amount being offered under new proposals is still nowhere near enough – despite the plans being given a green light at a council meeting.

The plans to buy 10 properties most in danger on Beach Road at Happisburgh for demolition and offer the homeowners between 40pc and 50pc of the theoretical value of their homes if they were inland and not at any risk from coastal erosion, were approved by North Norfolk District Council’s cabinet on Monday.

But the decision has angered campaigners, who say nothing less than 100pc should be offered.

The Happisburgh payments, which the government has for years refused to call "compensation" despite the word being used widely by the public, would be made through a scheme called Pathfinder, which last year saw a £3m grant made to the council to address a range of problems caused by erosion. People losing their homes to coastal erosion have previously faced receiving no compensation.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group and chairman of National Voice of Coastal Communities, said anything short of 100pc market value was sending the wrong message to government and other communities looking to gain compensation for coastal erosion.

Lee Walker, the district council’s member for Happisburgh Ward, warned other councillors at the meeting that adopting the proposals would be "letting the government off the hook".

She said: "This is about our relatives, our friends, people who are part of the community.

"The only percentage these people should get is 100pc, it is not just the residents of Beach Road saying that but the entire community. If you agree the 40-50pc you are setting a precedent."

Jane Archer, whose own home in Beach Road was once famously valued at just £1, was disappointed. She said: "The whole point of Pathfinder was to find a way for people to move on, if we are only going to get between 40 and 50pc I do not see how that can happen."

The council’s head of coastal strategy Peter Frew, reiterated the point that the 40-50pc figure only applies to houses most at risk, and that another report would look at the buying and leasing other homes nearby in the 20-100 year line, and the price offered could be much nearer the non-risk market value.

Clive Stockton, the council’s cabinet member for coastal strategy, who runs the Hill House pub in Happisburgh, said the proposals were "the best we are going to get".

He added: "I believe that we should give the people of Beach Road the best offer we can, because if time passes, they will have nothing."

The cabinet councillors voted in favour of the plans which will now come before full council for ratification with a recommendation that before the meeting further inquires were made in relation to the possibility of attracting more funding for the properties which would be offered the 40-50pc payments.

Other recommendations include providing help to move the Manor Farm caravan park away from its clifftop location, and relocating a village hall at Trimingham.