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West Norfolk councillor encouraged by coastal erosion debate

Council chiefs say they are encouraged by the government's response to the threat of coastal erosion
Council chiefs say they are encouraged by the government's response to the threat of coastal erosion

Local concerns about the threat of coastal erosion are starting to be taken more seriously in government, according to a West Norfolk councillor.

The comment came after North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham called for more to be done to support areas like this during a Westminster Hall debate last Tuesday.

Sir Henry praised the work of the community interest company set up in the wake of the 2013 tidal surge to maintain defences.

But he said the forthcoming abolition of the revenue support grant, which provides direct central government funding to local authorities, could make that work much more difficult.

He added: "The Minister’s Department and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must consider making some form of ring-fenced precept available to local councils, and perhaps there should be more contributions from town and parish councils inland."

Fellow Conservative MP Kristine Hair, who led the debate, argued ministers had to take the issue more seriously.

She said: "In the past, they have been guilty of putting too much emphasis on study and not enough on preventive action."

Agriculture minister George Eustace said nearly £1 billion would be invested in coastal defences by 2021 and argued that more schemes had gone ahead under the government's current approach than might otherwise have done, because of locally-sourced funding.

He also highlighted the sandscaping work being done on the Norfolk coastline to deposit sand and gravel on beaches to act as protection from storms, similar to the recharge work done at Snettisham.

Speaking on the debate at West Norfolk Council's meeting on Thursday, environment portfolio holder Ian Devereux said: "I think we're starting to get to a situation where the concerns we've had for many years are starting to be accepted at departmental level."

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