Flood risk building rules to be relaxed

Campaigners last night gave a cautious welcome to government plans to relax rules allowing more developments in areas of East Anglia at risk of coastal erosion.

Campaigners last night gave a cautious welcome to government plans to relax rules allowing more developments in areas of East Anglia at risk of coastal erosion.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is considering removing the blanket ban on building in under-threat areas to boost local economies.

While development such as housing will still be forbidden, temporary schemes which could boost tourism and recreation could be allowed under the proposed changes, which were published yesterday.

In areas at risk in the short term, within the next 20 years, only development directly linked to the coast will be allowed - such as beach huts or holiday caravan and camping sites.

In less vulnerable areas, where the risk of erosion is 50 to 100 years away, a wider range of development such as hotels, shops and leisure activities linked to the coast would be considered.

The north Norfolk coast could be among the areas which could benefit most, and the district's MP and a leading coastal campaigner said the proposals were a positive step.

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But they urged ministers to ensure communities should be able to 'move inland' and remain viable and sustainable.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'It is essential that the starting point is that we want to protect communities that are threatened by coastal erosion and we will fight to do that.

'Where it becomes impossible, and genuinely impossible, then we have to find the mechanism to allow the community to grow inland.'

He said relaxed planning rules were 'an important part' of the overall strategy for coastal areas - but he added that compensation had to be guaranteed for people who

lose their homes.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of Coastal Concern Action Group, said the government had to allow 'roll back' for communities to move inland and allow land which would normally be considered for development to be built on.

He added that coastal planning had to be 'more flexible.'

North Norfolk District Council recently produced new guidelines recognising that more needs to be done to help communities adapt to coastal change.

A spokesman said: 'There is still along way to go as far as fully recognising the real impact that coastal change has on communities.'

Making yesterday's announcement, planning minister John Healey said: 'What we're hearing from coastal communities is that right now temporary development that would be beneficial to the area's economy and tourist industry is unable to go ahead. It's really important for local businesses that they can keep going at this time of economic difficulties.

'That's why we're proposing to change the planning rules to allow safe time-limited development such as beach huts, car-parks and cafes to be built in coastal areas if there's an economic benefit.'

The Whitehall announcement came as the Environment Agency yesterday launched its consultation on the North Norfolk Shoreline Management Plan, which covers an area from Old Hunstanton to Kelling Hard.

The full document can be seen at local council offices and online by following the links from www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

There will be public drop-in sessions at The Maltings in Staithe Street, Wells, on Thursday September 10, 2-7pm and Brancaster Staithe Village Hall, on Friday, September 11, 2-7pm and Saturday, September 12, 9.30am-1.30pm.