Happisburgh villagers produce £1.6m coastal package measures plan

A village in the forefront of the battle against coastal erosion is hitting back with a £1.6m package of measures to help local people.

Residents of Happisburgh talked to officials at the weekend about a range of projects from buying up endangered homes to tidying up the clifftop and beach.

And a local coastal campaigner stressed that the way the village tackled the issues was a crucial blueprint for helping other communities in the same situation.

Happisburgh's crumbling cliffs and threatened clifftop homes have put it in the regional and national spotlight of the coastal erosion debate, including calls for cash to help seaside villages cope with loss of land and blight on property.

It has been given half a £3m government Pathfinder grant to North Norfolk to help it adjust to the problems.

A public drop-in was held at Happisburgh on Saturday, attended by more than 120 people, to outline some plans for spending it, such as

  • Buying a dozen properties inside a 20-year danger line after agreeing their price through an independent valuer.
  • Buying other properties with a slightly longer lifespan to lease back to existing or new owners in a bid to avoid blight.
  • Tidying up the clifftop to create a buffer including moving a council car park and toilets inland.
  • Removing debris such as shattered groynes and ramps from the beach
  • Providing advice to help relocate the clifftop Manor Farm caravan park
  • A cultural project to record the local history and celebrate its future.

North Norfolk District Council coastal planner Rob Young said the open day aimed to explain the plans but also get feedback from local people.

"People's lives have been on hold for years and they have been unable to plan for their futures - now we can move on," he explained.

It was hoped to "move fast" on getting valuations for threatened homes, without "holding a gun to anybody's head."

The Pathfinder project would not solve coastal change problems in North Norfolk but it would find ways forward.

Local coastal campaigner Malcolm Kerby, who sits on a government think tank on erosion issues, said he was still disappointed the council only got half of its original bid, but it was a pioneering project for a small community which had helped influence national policies.