Erosion-hit Happisburgh residents criticise ‘insulting’ compensation offer

Erosion-threatened clifftop residents demanded "social justice" after a Norfolk council agreed a possible compensation deal that they branded "insulting".

North Norfolk District Council agreed a plan to buy 10 homes in most danger on Beach Road at Happisburgh for demolition and offer the homeowners 40-50pc of the value of their homes if they were inland and not at risk from coastal erosion.

Councillors said it was "the best we can do" and pledged to "continue to lobby and campaign" for a better deal.

But angry campaigners called on the council to give them nothing less than 100pc to enable them to "move on" and rebuild their blighted lives.

The offers, which are set to be made in the coming weeks, have come as a result of a government pathfinder scheme, under which the council got £3m to address a range of coastal erosion issues.

Last month, the full council deferred a vote on the compensation offers to enable further meetings to take place with householders on September 24.

But on Thursday evening the package - which officers said had been slightly enhanced since September - was agreed unanimously.

Before the meeting, householders made a final impassioned plea to councillors to give them 100pc of the value of their homes.

Di Wrightson said: "A 40-50pc purchase offer is not just and right and could be seen by some as insulting. You have the opportunity to put things right."

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group, said: "The Pathfinder is a rare opportunity to effectively address past abandonment. My desire is that we can exorcise the past in a socially just manner and move on to ensure that there will never be another situation like Happisburgh along our coast."

Council leader Virginia Gay said: "We are very mindful of the terribly distressing situation that the people of Happisburgh are in. That's what has motivated this council to do its utmost.

"But if we don't pass a resolution, no offer can be made. It is also vital that we don't close the door on the people of Happisburgh, and that we continue to lobby and campaign. This must not be the end of the story."

She stressed that it was not "compulsory", and that householders could choose whether or not to accept any offer.

She added: "This is what we believe to be the best we can do at this moment in time. It's incumbent on us to continue to fight for social justice."

Cabinet member Peter Moore said: "Let it be understood that this council will continue to lobby the government and anybody else to get a better deal than we've been able to offer at present."

After agreeing the package, councillors supported a motion by Happisburgh member Lee Walker, who said 100pc was the "only acceptable offer".

She said: "I propose we vote to permit the officers to proceed but add the caveat that there will be future negotiation and offers with those affected.

"If an acceptable scheme comes up then we can go back to them for further negotiation and offers. We must apply as much pressure as possible on government to include social justice for those around the coast, giving them the same consideration as those homeowners in the path of motorways and airports."

Other recommendations passed as part of the pathfinder include providing help to move Happisburgh's Manor Farm caravan park away from its clifftop location and relocating Trimingham village hall.