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Should residents living in

flood- and erosion-prone areas

be entitled to compensation?
I fully agree that the coast and
Greg Guthrie
In the Netherlands, for the state not to
Malcolm Kerby
The Coast Protection Act 1949 (minor
GG estuaries are a national asset
and need to be managed as such.
defend is illegal. In other countries, for revamp of the 1939 Act) means we are
However, there is also value to the local
it to do so, would be unthinkable. In trying to address 21st century problems,
communities and to individuals.
the UK, there is a permissive power to global warming etc, with effectively a 68
Where there is no conflict in
defend against flood and erosion. There year old toolkit. It doesn't work, it is no
maintaining common values in
is no duty. Furthermore, the purpose is longer relevant. We now live in a more
balance, it may be argued that the
in providing benefit to the community democratic and reportedly, socially just
individual benefits incidentally, the
and society. It is not for the protection society. Except when it comes to coast
cost being borne by the nation or the
of individuals as such. management.
community (as represented by the local
authority); it is not for the individual’s
This may be understood in looking at Overall 'strategic' control of coast
benefit that management is
the arguments leading up to the Coast management has been given to the
Protection Act (CPA) 1949. The concern Environment Agency, a leviathan
was that it was unjust that local quango. Not much democracy there
Where there is conflict that, say, an
communities should bear the full cost of then!
individual wishes to maintain defences
defence when there was benefit to the
which would cause damage to other
nation as well as the individual and Government-controlled second gener-
individuals or to the national benefit,
local community. The argument was ation Shoreline Management Plans
then, as in any other area of life, that
that the cost should be borne by each in (SMPs) are being introduced which are
person should not benefit to the
proportion to their benefit. calling for a significant number of people
disadvantage of others; that is social
to lose their land and property (homes)
justice. If on the other hand an
The rules depend on the society in in the wider national interest entirely
individual suffers to the betterment of
which we live; there is no universal right without financial, or indeed any other,
others, there is already mechanism for
that a nation should compensate for mitigation of those losses by the 'wider
compensation. These balances and
loss to the individual. In our society, nation'! Not much social justice there
checks are already within the CPA 1949
provision of defence is for the benefit of then!
(how farsighted for out of date
community, not the individual. Why
then should there be compensation to If the "cost should be borne by each in
individuals when defence is not proportion to their benefit" can we
Far from being a government
considered, or when defence, which was expect the cost of the proposed Thames
controlled process, SMP2s are a realistic
previously considered beneficial to barrage (probably billions) to be borne
examination of these potential
society (and provided on that basis) is by Londoners alone? The whole coast
conflicts. The SMP2s are not “calling
withdrawn because it is no longer and its estuaries are national assets
for a loss of homes”; it is the realism of
considered sustainable? enjoyed by all and the 'wider nation'
coastal processes. Without SMPs we
must bear the full cost of management
would be managing by default.
including compensation for those
individuals forced to make the ultimate
sacrifice, total loss.

6 The edge Spring 2007

Greg Guthrie from Royal Haskoning and
Malcolm Kirby from the Coastal Concern
Action Group go head to head on the issue. Greg Guthrie Malcolm Kirby

The first paragraph of Greg's Article 8 of The European

MK response is the usual 'smoke GG Convention on Human Rights
and mirrors' and the second paragraph states that: “There shall be no interference
MK If SMP2 is the "second
messenger" then it should not
only be shot but buried as deep as
would perhaps be better if it read thus: by a public authority with the exercise of…” possible. The second generation SMPs
anyone’s “right to respect for his private and manage nothing, it would be more
Where there is conflict as a result of family life, his home…” “except such as is accurate to describe them as plans to
individuals or Government wishing to …necessary in a democratic society in the legitimise the massive underfunding of
either maintain or discontinue defences interests of …the economic well-being of the our coast. What they are is any chosen
which would cause 'damage' to other country …freedoms of others”. Is this not consultant’s prediction of our future
individuals or communities or to the exactly the argument I am putting coast against the backdrop of
national benefit, then as in any other forward? The intervention by the state underfunding, the only evidence we (the
area of life, that individual or is judged by benefit to society, but stakeholders ) have to judge on is the
Government should not benefit to the should not prevent individuals certain knowledge of how inaccurate
disadvantage of others; that is social intervening unless this causes damage some so-called expert (consultants)
justice! to the state or others. predictions are! We are facing an
uncertain future with climate change. It
The mechanism for compensation To dismiss the argument as “smoke and will not serve us well if we choose to
within the CPA 1949 is woefully mirrors” neither negates the argument ignore or run away from the problems
inadequate and flawed. Indeed that Act nor is helpful and, while I would agree climate change and global warming may
does not sit comfortably alongside The that ideally there is a lack of resource on bring for financial short termism.
Human Rights Act 1998 or The European coast protection, this again does not
Convention on Human Rights, really affect the discussion about where Change is inevitable, to what extent we
particularly regarding Article 1 of the money is best spent. can only guess, but we should neither be
First Protocol, Article 8 and Article 14. frightened of it nor shrink from
SMP1 highlighted the problems, SMP2 addressing it. We need to change both
SMP2s are absolutely controlled by confirms this. Shooting a second the mindset and the toolkit for dealing
Government. No maritime authority has messenger does not make the message with it on the coast. We must keep an
the freedom to produce a SMP which wrong. What, however, is needed is for open mind to all useful tools to deal
falls outside Government parameters, no the SMP to be in context of broader with that change effectively. We must
matter how inapplicable those coastal management. The SMP is embrace that change in the best interests
parameters may be. The way SMPs are isolated without this. ICZM aims to of all the people and most importantly
currently being used to legitimise and deliver an agreed future for society. we must use every tool at our disposal ie
perpetuate the massive underfunding of hard defences, soft defences, no defences
coast protection rather than sound Where individuals suffer in the delivery and above all compensation that we
effective long term management means of this future, there is argument for may make the most difficult decisions
we are already managing " by default". compensation, but not in relation for sound effective coast management
Whether we manage effectively or by purely to a lack of state funding of rationale unencumbered, rooted in a
default, compensation is the only way to defence. socially just framework.
'unlock' the process.

Gregor Guthrie is an Associate with the Coast and Rivers Division of Royal Haskoning.
Malcolm Kerby is Co-ordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group, Happisburgh.

The edge Spring 2007 7