A retired engineer who built his own sea defences is trying to reverse a legal judgement which would result in his home being washed into the sea.
78 year old Peter Boggis has spent seven years and over fifty thousand pounds of his own money constructing a kilometre long sea wall from 25,000 tonnes of compacted clay. He is trying to stop the sea eroding cliffs just a hundred yards away from his home at Easton Bavents, north of Southwold in Suffolk, UK. Mr Boggis started the work without planning permission.
No planning permission
But three years ago Natural England, a UK government environmental protection body, declared the area a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the grounds that it is particularly rich in fossils. This effectively barred Mr Boggis from continuing construction of his sea wall.
A series of court cases followed and last month the Court of Appeal in London ruled that the cliffs should be allowed to erode naturally. Now solicitors acting for Mr Boggis say they have applied to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Mr Boggis could not be reached for comment but he told the East Anglain Daily Times: “I am determined to do everything in my power to protect the little village my family established a hundred years ago from being destroyed without compensation as I believed was the intention of English Nature to achieve by including the beach our sea defence is on in the SSSI to prevent its maintenance and encourage Waveney District Council to take enforcement action.”
Mr Boggis, whose house, The Warren, is 302ft from the cliff edge, argues that his sea defences have so far saved more than eight acres of land and four properties “at no cost to the nation”.
Shaun Thomas, Natural England’s East of England regional director, said: “Mr Boggis has no justification for implying that ‘the state has plans for the destruction of a village’.
“The SSSI notification does not constitute a plan to allow the cliffs at Easton Bavents to erode and does not constitute a plan to prevent communities from defending themselves against destruction by the sea.
“The Easton Bavents site is of national conservation importance but it does not stop Mr Boggis from applying for planning permission for the works that he wishes to put in place to protect his home. It would also not stop Waveney District Council from granting this permission if they chose to do so.
“We fully understand that Mr Boggis is concerned to protect his home but the route to resolve the problem is the well-established planning system.”
Last month the head of the UK Environment Agency warned that coastal erosion in eastern England is so severe that Britain will have to surrender some erosion-hit areas to the sea, as it will be impossible to defend them all from being overwhelmed.
Lord Smith, a former cabinet minister said that as insurance companies cannot be relied upon to protect homeowners, the Government must prepare rescue packages for those whose homes will inevitably be lost.
Suggesting that parts of north-east Norfolk and Suffolk are most immediately at risk, Lord Smith said: “We are almost certainly not going to be able to defend absolutely every bit of coast – it would simply be an impossible task both in financial terms and engineering terms.
“This is the most difficult issue we are going to face as an agency. We know the sea is eating away at the coast in quite a number of places, primarily – but not totally exclusively – on the east and south coasts. It’s a particularly huge issue in East Anglia, but in quite a number of other areas as well.”
Suffolk Coastal District Council has estimated that 1,600 homes could be at risk because of weak sea defences and coastal erosion.