Letter from Malcolm Kerby: "Talking is the only way forward"

in response to letter from Elliot Morley

I REGRET the Minister, is bewildered by my determination to reveal the facts about the grossly unfair distribution of funding which exists between fluvial flood and coastal erosion areas.

However, it would seem he is bewildering himself to some extent as I did not mention funding for coastal flood areas; I never do as they are the direct responsibility of the Environment Agency.

If what little I say bewilders him, I would ask him to think of our perspective and the plethora of bewildering statements and actions emanating from Defra and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (OPDM).

At this point it is pertinent that I should draw his attention to a written reply he made on January 10, 2005, to a written question from Norman Lamb, our MP, which I requested Mr Lamb to put on our behalf. Mr Lamb asked how much will be allocated to the maritime authorities for coastal defence projects in 2005-6. The reply from Mr Morley was: "The total allocation for grant and Supported Capital Expenditure (Revenue) for local authorities for 2005-6 is £47million. This will be spent on both inland and coastal improvement projects to reduce risk, but by far the greater part will be invested by maritime councils on coastal projects."

Strange then that he now expects those authorities "to spend £60million this year on coastal erosion projects".

Little wonder there is bewilderment and confusion. we start with £47million, not all to be spent on the coast, We are then to expect £60million, then we have a single scheme in Scarborough which should have cost some £28million but went over budget by a staggering £25million. So that is another £53million. Whichever way I look at it, that one scheme in Scarborough has used up £6million more than the entire UK coastal erosion budget for all the maritime authorities, of which I believe there are approximately 70. Unless, of course, Mr Morley has some other figures to be announced later.

It is very reassuring to note that the Minister believes: "it is crucial that we should listen to each other." Of course to do that we have to talk to each other. In that constructive spirit I would cordially welcome the minister to Happisburgh and North.Norfolk that we may indeed achieve a greater understanding of each other's problems and do as he suggests, start listening.

One final point, in his letter Mr Morley said: "some locations on the North Norfolk coast have benefited from Defra grantaided investment in recent years." He then goes on to suggest that "Happisburgh to Winterton" is one of those areas. This, of course, is completely wrong.

There has been no government funding invested at Happisburgh by Defra or its earlier incarnation, Maff, for well over 40 years. That is a fact. The Minister may be better advised to more correctly refer to that part of the coast as Eccles to Winterton, thus avoiding bewilderment and confusion.

MALCOLM KERBY
Co-ordinator, Coastal
Concern Action Group