Letter in the Guardian:
When it comes to coastal erosion (Waves of destruction, G2, April 17), unlike most other European countries we don’t have a solidarity fund to compensate people for such natural disasters, and so the last owner is expected to pay when their house is demolished.
To stop a perverse game of beggar-my-neighbour where the unscrupulous try to sell to unsuspecting buyers, we should be leasing such coastal properties from the sea. Any land that is likely to disappear within a century would in effect become leasehold and the time left stated on the title deeds. In addition to a solidarity fund, limited compensation could be paid if such estimates proved to be wrong. The British Geological Survey, which already undertakes coastal surveys, could provide fairly reliable estimates revised every decade for places with cliffs like Happisburgh. This would be rather more problematic further south along the Norfolk coast since a major breach to this narrow barrier could happen any time this century.
Once breached, the northern Norfolk broads and several villages would be lost, and so a proper cost/benefit analysis is urgently required. Coastal defences would interfere with the movement of sediment down the east coast of England and have to be balanced against any likely impacts further down the coast.
Fellow, Geological Society