Happisburgh Rocks!

"HAPPISBURGH ROCKS!" has for the past three years been the slogan and logo for Coastal Concern Ltd the charity instituted by the Coastal Concern Action Group to raise money for coast protection of Happisburgh. Now the villalge can rock on, safe in the knowledge that short of a catastrophic climate phenomenon the village should be safe for at least a further ten years.

For any members not aware of the latest developments in coastal protection matters, let me put you in the picture. North Norfolk District Council, in defiance of Government intention to allow "managed retreat" in all areas but heavily populated urban locations, decided to spend their emergency funds to give a ten-year breathing space to villages under their jurisdiction. They allocated £2,000,000 for this work which they are undertaking under their emergency provision, although the "second generation" Shoreline Management Plans being prepared state that there shall be "no active intervention" on the coastline where "managed retreat" is in operation.

The decision was made to start the work at Happisburgh, the most threatened of the North Norfolk villages, within two months of the Council's announcement. Although this gave little time for action, the Board of Directors of Coastal Concern Ltd. agreed to make a supreme effort to boost the existing £10,000 already collected through donations, events and sales of souvenirs, and offer it to NNDC for the purchase of extra rocks to augment the £200,000 allocated by them to Happisburgh. The race was on! Many people from the village and hundreds of holiday visitors, owners of cottages and caravans in the village and friends from far and wide added to the fund. As a result of this effort 25% more rocks were added to the original number ordered by NNDC! The Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse showed tremendous loyalty to the village in the flood of donations contributed.

As I write this, machines and men are toiling on the beach below the cliffs building a two-metre rock wall to break the pressure of the waves and keep the cliff secure. Visitors will notice that the main thrust of the protection is from the village end of the bay eroded from Cart Gap to the end of Beach Road and as far as the old lifeboat ramp. Coastal engineers believe this is the weak point at Happisburgh and this action should protect the village for the time it takes for Government to come up with a more acceptable policy on coastal issues. They also intend to carry out necessary work to counteract erosion below the caravan site.

I discussed this policy with the Head of Coastal Management at NNDC a few days ago, and he assured me that if and when some parts of the area were lost (sadly, we cannot realistically expect a stay of execution for ten years at this end of Happisburgh) the rocks can and will be moved to other areas (such as the lighthouse) as their vulnerability increases. The plugging of the gap behind the sea wall at Cart Gap, with more rocks, is to be tackled in three years' time when other emergency work has been done in various coastal parts of North Norfolk.

If anyone doubts the value of this exciting upturn of events here in Happisburgh, he only has to walk up Beach Road to see builders, plumbers and decorators vans parked outside many doors and to hear the scrape of wallpaper being removed, hammers thudding and paintbrushes slurping! There is already a huge wave of optimism engulfing Happisburgh which started as soon as the first lorries carrying all that Leicestershire rock rumbled through the village. Although we have never and will never give up the fight, most of us have felt that the effort of maintaining properties which would eventually have to be abandoned was hardly worth while. This "buying of time" has put an entirely different complexion on the matter, and everyone in Happisburgh seems to be walking with a lighter step as summer approaches.