Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Man wins cliff home erosion case


Peter Boggis was forced to stop building his own coastal defences

A retired engineer has won the latest stage of his fight to protect his Suffolk home from falling into the sea.

Natural England wanted fossil-bearing cliffs near Southwold to be allowed to erode raising the prospect that some homes could fall into the sea.

But Peter Boggis, 77, installed his own defences near his Easton Bavents home.

High Court judge Mr Justice Blair ruled Natural England's decision to permit erosion for "scientific reasons" was unlawful but an appeal can be made.

Living a nightmare

Mr Boggis said: "Mr Justice Blair's judgment lifts a great shadow from my mind and gives hope for the future for 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."

Natural England declared the area a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 2006, which prevented Mr Boggis from maintaining his sea defence barrier.

I think it is obviously in the interests of the people whose homes are threatened that the sooner this matter is brought on the better
Mr Justice Blair

But he had argued that Natural England had no legal right to stop him saving his home.

Mr Boggis spent tens of thousands of pounds building his own sea defences using 250,000 tonnes of compacted clay soils to prevent his home and 13 others nearby from eventually slipping into the North Sea.

But the ruling means he will not be able to resume maintenance of his sea defences until the outcome of any appeal by Natural England.

The judge ruled that the intention behind the SSSI was to allow the destruction of Mr Boggis's "soft sea defences" and the rapid erosion of the cliffs behind them.

Mr Justice Blair said this amounted to "a plan or project" which might have an adverse effect on a special protection area (SPA) for birds to the north of the Mr Boggis' sea defences.

The judge ruled an "appropriate assessment" of the risk to the SPA should have been carried out to comply with the EU Habitats Directive. Natural England's failure to do so was contrary to its duties under European law.

The judge said: "I think it is obviously in the interests of the people whose homes are threatened that the sooner this matter is brought on the better."

Appeal to be made

In a statement Natural England said it did not want to prevent Mr Boggis from protecting his home but he had not obtained planning permission from his local authority or a waste licence from the Environment Agency.

A spokeswoman said the principle of "conservation instead of preservation" had been upheld and believed the judge had backed their case in principle, but not the process used to designate the site.

Natural England would be appealing and remained "very confident", she said.

Helen Phillips, chief executive of Natural England, said they had a legal duty to designate "areas of national conservation importance".

A spokesperson for Waveney District Council, the local authority where Mr Boggis lives, said: "This is a complex matter in 'unusual circumstances' yet the judgement shows that Waveney District Council acted appropriately throughout.

"We are content that our actions have been vindicated."

The judge awarded Mr Boggis 80% of his legal costs.

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