Easton Bavants with cliff and sandbank
Living on the edge
The eroding clifftop is edging closer and closer to Peter Boggis' house near Southwold. In 2006, he made this Video Nation film about the effects of the sea and weather on his property. In 2008, he won a court victory against Natural England.
Peter Boggis has been called the 'King Cnut' of East Anglia. He lives at Easton Bavents just north of Southwold. Unfortunately, his house is also just north of the end of the town's official sea defence works which saw a multi-million pound redevelopment in 2006.
Following years of rowing with the authorities the retired engineer has taken matters into his own hands by building a bank of earth at the base of the natural cliff to provide an extra barrier against the north sea.
Natural England gave the cliffs status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 2006 - after Mr Boggis had build a 'soft sea defence'. He built a buttress using 250,000 tonnes of compacted clay soils at the base of the natural sandy cliff.
The clay has mainly come from building sites. In December 2005, Natural England used the courts to prevent Mr Boggis maintaining the defence with new material.
Three years later, Mr Boggis estimates that only 50,000 tonnes is left following two winters of erosion, but the natural cliff has had no more erosion as a result.
Mr Boggis went to the High Court in London in November 2008 arguing that he has a legal right to protect his home and the 13 others at Easton Bavents. Mr Boggis's house is about 80 metres from the edge, while his neighbour is just 10 metres away from the cliff-top.
Natural England argued that it has given the area SSSI status so that they can use the eroded cliff for soil, rock and fossil studies. Their lawyers have argued in court that if Mr Boggis won his legal challenge it would frustrate geological investigations and curtail understanding of how the English landscape has evolved.
Looking south towards Southwold
Mr Boggis claimed it was a travesty of justice and posed a great threat to all those living on coastal cliffs across the country.
Natural England say it's not arguing that extra defences can't be constructed in all cases, but in this case geological interest is more important.
Mr Boggis estimates that his house was worth £300,000 in 2005, but by 2008 it was probably only worth £30,000. The agency's solicitor Peter Scott said: "Natural England do not believe there is any right to compensation if the loss of a house is a result of land being notified as an SSSI."
If there is no protection, it's estimated that all the houses at Easton Bavents will disappear within 50 years.
On 5 December 2008, the High Court made its decision. The judge ruled that Natural England's policy of insisting the cliffs should be allowed to erode was "unlawful".
Mr Boggis said: "Mr Justice Blair's judgment lifts a great shadow from my mind and gives hope for the future of those that live by the coast of Britain.
"We have lived a nightmare in recent years. Inconvenient or not to bureaucracy, the defence of the coast should not be walked away from."
However, Mr Boggis will not immediately be able to resume re-building his earth sea defence. Natural England may yet make an appeal against the 5 December High Court ruling.
last updated: 05/12/2008 at 10:55
Have Your Say
if i lived on the end i will move some were else lol i love tiago
It seems to me Natural England are doing research on the cheap in that the dat could be gathered in another
OK for Mr Boggis, but his eroding cliff provides much needed beach recharge material elsewhere. If he is allowed to defend his bit then someone else's beach suffers. Nature should be allowed to take it's course & he should be compensated. Any other decision flies in the face of reason.
Natural England's policy-makers need to think about how they would feel if their homes were threatened, by a flooding river for example, and permission to build defences was denied them.
English Nature have reduced Mr Boggis' asset by 90% in the name of 'conservation'. They have done exactly the same to me. My pension fund owns a brown field site in the centre of a Hampshire town. EN stopped us developing the site and have reduced an asset worth £850,000 in 2004 to a worthless derelict wasteland.Someone has got to stop these over-bloated bullies who have been set up by government to pursue the environmental cause without any repsonsibility for the resultant damage caused to individuals and society in general.
Study of landscape versus someone's home? - no contest - Peter Boggis should be allowed his home or compensated hugely.
Well done Mr Boggis,a victory for the ordinary citizen.Well done Mr Justice Blairs,a decision built on common sense