Stand-off over beach clean-up

A STAND-OFF between a landowner and wildlife bosses has left a stretch of picturesque coastline looking more like a scrap yard rather than the beautiful beach for which it is famed.

A STAND-OFF between a landowner and wildlife bosses has left a stretch of picturesque coastline looking more like a scrap yard rather than the beautiful beach for which it is famed.

Last night, retired engineer Peter Boggis said he would be happy to clean the debris at Easton Bavents, near Southwold, but was being prevented from doing so by Natural England.

However, the organisation disputed the claim, saying they were assessing the 78-year-old's proposals for the site.

Since 2002, Mr Boggis has built more than 1km of his own coastal defences at Easton Bavents, using 250,000 tonnes of compacted clay soil to protect his home - which is just 302ft (92m) from the cliff edge - from the ravages of the North Sea.

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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), which stopped him from repairing and maintaining the defences.

But earlier this week judges in London ruled the cliffs should be allowed to erode naturally and the only way Mr Boggis could continue his work was to apply for planning permission.

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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 - leaving items lying on the beach and causing potential hazards for visitors.

It includes rusty metal poles sticking out of the sand and large concrete blocks scattered along the shoreline.

Mr Boggis said: 'The only reason why there is debris is because Natural England will not allow me to take machinery on the beach.

'I have made it quite clear that the moment I have unfettered access I would be very happy to clear it up.

'What we have asked Natural England for is permission to maintain the area. I realise the debris on the beach could be offensive to some people but Natural England is determined to make life difficult. That's the only reason why there is anything there at all - it's not my choice.'

Shaun Thomas, east of England regional director for Natural England, confirmed it had received a request to carry out works on the beach at Easton Bavents, which included clearance of waste debris.

'We welcome plans to clear the beach of any waste debris,' he said. 'However, the plans that have been submitted also appear to involve strengthening part of the defences.

'We need to assess that aspect in detail in case it affects the geological history for which the site is so important. We are not holding up these plans - we are assessing them within our normal timescale for such requests.'

Mr Thomas said the aim was to provide advice within four months, although they also had to ensure the permission of other relevant landowners or occupiers.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said they believed Mr Boggis had agreed to clean the area.

Paul Patterson, principal service manager for coastal protection at Waveney District Council, said they were aware of the situation and had been working with the interested parties to find a solution but were so far unsuccessful.

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