Retired engineer vows to continue sea defence battle

Hayley MaceA retired engineer who has spent thousands of pounds building his own sea defences yesterday vowed to continue fighting to stop his home falling into the North Sea after a legal appeal ruled against him.Hayley Mace

A retired engineer who has spent thousands of pounds building his own sea defences yesterday vowed to continue fighting to stop his home falling into the North Sea after a legal appeal ruled against him.

Since 2002, Peter Boggis, 78, has built more than 1km of his own coastal defences in front of the eroding cliffs below his house at Easton Bavents, just north of Southwold, using 250,000 tonnes of compacted clay soil.

For the past three years he has been fighting against Natural England's proposals to include the fossil-rich cliffs in a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but yesterday, appeal judges in London ruled against him and stated that the cliffs should be allowed to erode naturally.

Mr Boggis, whose house sits just 302ft (92m) from the edge of the cliff, said yesterday that he is not deterred by his latest legal defeat.

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He said: 'I have nothing to gain from giving up, I would just lose everything I have already put into this. If you know that what you're fighting for is right, you have to make sure that you don't stop fighting for it.

'If God gives me the strength, I will take this to the Supreme Court or to the European Court of Justice and if I'm lucky, this will have opened avenues for me to do this. These are matters of European law and I feel that I may then be able to get a sound judgement.'

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In December last year, Mr Boggis took Natural England - the body responsible for protecting the nation's wild plants and natural features - to the High Court, claiming that the SSSI had been imposed without the correct wildlife assessment being carried out, and the court found in his favour.

Natural England appealed against the decision and in a judgement yesterday, the Court of Appeal said that the only route left open to Mr Boggis is to apply for planning permission for his defences.

Natural England's regional director Shaun Thomas said: 'Natural England sympathises with the situation Mr Boggis faces, but the sea defences he has put in place need to be considered by appropriate planning authorities, so that all the interests at stake in this area can be taken into account.

'The SSSI designation does not remove Mr Boggis' right to defend his home - regardless of whether the area is a SSSI or not, it remains open to Mr Boggis to seek legal permission, through the planning system, for the defences he wishes to construct.

'We are working with Mr Boggis, Waveney District Council and the Environment Agency to see if we can identify a mutually acceptable coastal defence scheme in the area.'

However Mr Boggis said that applying for planning permission would be 'nonsense'.

He said: 'It will not work until Natural England agrees to defend this stretch of coast, because they would have a say in any planning application.'

Since he was stopped from repairing and maintaining his defences when the SSSI was redesignated in December 2005, about 200,000 tonnes of material has been lost to the sea.

He said: 'Of the 1km of cliff that we were protecting, 250m is now again exposed to erosion. Since the defences were built, about eight acres of land and four properties have been saved at no cost to the nation.'

Mr Boggis and the Easton Bavents Conservation group were ordered to pay Natural England's costs and refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, although they can still petition the Supreme Court for permission.

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