Sea defence campaigners riding high

The influence of a Norfolk lobby group which started as a struggle to win sea defences for one coastal village has spread both nationally and internationally.

The Coastal Concern Action Group, based at Happisburgh, has featured many times in the EDP over recent years in connection with coastal erosion and related issues.

The group's sway has risen slowly and surely over the years, but in recent months its clout has risen to new levels, with members invited to conferences around the world, taking part in direct campaigning in other parts of the UK and even being included in meetings with the same government departments with which they were for so long at total loggerheads.

"It has been an incredible few years," said CCAG coordinator Malcolm Kerby.

"I said right from the start that our name should not have the word Happisburgh in it. Although the village remains the priority, using the name would have been limiting in many ways.

"Now we are at a stage where we have been asked to meetings and conferences all over the world, let alone all over the country."

Mr Kerby said there had been invitations from Cuba, Australia and Brussels. Lobbying trips had been made to Scotland and London. And contact has been made with a number of other areas going through similar problems to North Norfolk, such as Scarborough, the East Riding of Yorkshire and Shepway. The group is also often invited to put its views by government departments such as Defra.

Locally, there have been a huge number of meetings with communities on the coast and inland.

"It is a clear indication that we are on the right track and that CCAG has become something of a major force," added Mr Kerby.

There was also a clear message to other communities suffering the impact of coastal erosion and concerned about sea level rise and climate change.

"The key thing to get over to people living in coastal areas is they need to be aware of what is happening around them in terms of coastal plans and policies," said Mr Kerby.

"Unless they understand what is happening there will always be the danger of policies slipping through pretty much unnoticed and unchallenged."