Coastal erosion plans move forward

Homeowners in the coastal erosion hotspot Happisburgh will not have to wait for long into the new year for discussions to start about the payments they may receive for their houses under a project to tackle the impacts of coastal change.

As reported previously in the EDP, North Norfolk District Council has been awarded a £3m pot of government money to trial a number of ground breaking pathfinder projects to tackle the impacts which erosion has on communities, individuals and businesses.

The most awaited of those projects is a plan for the council to offer to buy a small handful of the most at-risk houses along Beach Road in Happisburgh and demolish them, allowing their occupants to buy another home instead of being left with nothing.

A meeting hosted by the council on January 7 for interested parties will update parish councils and community groups about progress made on project planning since the cash award was made last month.

It will also tie in the current state of the shoreline management plan, which has been one of the major drivers for the creation of the pathfinder scheme across the country.

But most of the interest will be focussed on the state of the £3m pot. The money will be spread over two financial years, with the initial £900,000 for the 2009/10 year already in council coffers.

A property adviser will be appointed in January to kick off negotiations with homeowners on property values, both for the buy and demolish scheme and the related element of buying another set of homes at slightly less risk and offering them for lease back.

Other actions in the next few months look set to include:

  • Finding a piece of land to open a new council car park in Happisburgh.
  • A meeting has already been held with Cromer Town Council to discuss how to create a footpath realignment to solve a closure on the Runton Road car park caused by a previous cliff fall.
  • Making sure groups have been set up in the community to discuss the detail of how to spend the money.
  • Negotiations to move part of the caravan park at Happisburgh which has already lost land to cliff falls.
  • Helping relocate Trimingham village hall.

Peter Frew, head of coastal strategy at the council, said it was hoped the buy and demolish scheme, which was not compulsory if people did not want to take it up, would produce a national formula of how to value a cliff top house.

Various factors would be taken into consideration, such as the value of the home when bought, what the buyer knew about levels of risk when they purchased and its value now if it were somewhere without the same risk.

"Each property is an individual case and that circumstances around it are individual," added Mr Frew.

The January 7 meeting will be held at 6.30pm in the council's Cromer headquarters on Holt Road.