Officials responsible for spending £3m of government money in a bid to tackle a range of coastal challenges in north Norfolk have pledged to make it a priority to talk to individuals and communities about how the money will be spent.
As news of the ‘pathfinder’ grant to North Norfolk District Council continued to sink in yesterday, the reaction of delight turned to questions about how the project would work in practice.
As reported in yesterday’s EDP, the north Norfolk handout was by far the biggest of 15 grants made nationally, with Waveney District Council coming in second with £1.5m and the majority of others below the £1m mark.
While some of the £3m in north Norfolk will be spent buying clifftop homes which are at imminent danger and having them demolished, or buying and leasing back some less at-risk homes, there will also be a large amount of money for other projects which will be explained more fully to the public.
“There are a number of steps we need to take first and one of those is to communicate with local people to make sure they buy in to the things we want to do,” said Rob Young, the council’s senior coastal planner.
“The ideas put into this project came from members of the community and we now want to take those ideas to the wider community and discuss them.”
A key meeting today of the council’s coastal management board will start to guide the complicated project, looking at priorities and workloads.
A desire to “make a difference on the ground” relatively quickly was also an important step, said Mr Young.
The money from government has not been not ring fenced because it was a pilot scheme dealing with a range of issues not closely explored in the past, so the council and its partners had flexibility, he added.
Meanwhile Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group, said it was now important to allow people to “sit down in a cool, calm atmosphere” to work out how best to spend the money.
But urging a note of caution, he added that once the pathfinder scheme came to a close at the end of March 2011, it was important to achieve continuity.
“This is a scheme with a set amount of time to run and once we are past that date in less than 18 months time, it is vital communities are not put into a new vacuum.
“We are at an incredibly exciting moment, but what this has to produce in the end are permanent policies which help people both here and all around the country.”
The council’s cabinet will discuss the pathfinder project on Tuesday, when they will be asked to give delegated powers to senior officers, including chief executive Philip Burton, to make procurement decisions.
Council officers have explained that the move is necessary because of the tight timeframe in which the £3m needs to be spent – some of it before the end of March and the remaining majority by the end of March 2011.
Story by Ed Foss in the Eastern Daily Press