A pensioner has launched a High Court battle against a Government-funded organisation which has told him he must allow his cliffside home to fall into the sea.So, he’s taken it upon himself to protect his home and those in his community (a laudable aim, you’d think?) and the big hand of government is poised to come crashing down to prevent that. Simple bureaucratic dogmatism, or something else?
Peter Boggis, 77, built his own coastal defences to halt erosion that was threatening his house and neighbouring properties.
But Natural England wants fossil-bearing cliffs in the area to be allowed to wear away, exposing soil and rock for study.That must be some definition of ‘Special Scientific Interest’ – “It’s so wonderful, we just must see it all washed away!”
Two years ago it declared Easton Bavents, near Southwold in Suffolk, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - which prevents Mr Boggis from maintaining his barrier.
Gregory Jones, representing Mr Boggis, opened the two-day hearing by telling Mr Justice Blair (Ed: yes, he is the brother of THAT Mr Blair…) the purpose of SSSIs was to 'conserve or preserve' flora or fauna or geological features.Well, there’s a surprise – legislation originally intended for one purpose is distorted and twisted until it achieves precisely the opposite effect, at the behest of uncaring government apparatchiks and to the detriment of the citizens who pay for them. Doesn’t this case just sum up the attitude to the individual held by the State?
But Natural England, he said, had attempted to extend the scope of SSSIs 'in order to study the destruction of the cliffs'.
'Allowing the erosion of the cliffs in one or two years means they will no longer be the same cliffs as those there one or two years before,' he added.
'You have not conserved and you have not preserved them.'
Natural England, which was formed in October 2006 from the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Rural Development Service, claims the SSSI was properly made and not open to legal challenge.Now, normally, I’m quite a cheerleader for scientific discovery and particularly in the field of prehistory. But this is a man’s home - just how vital could that information possibly be, in comparison?
It says there is a legitimate scientific interest in allowing the sea to erode the cliffs as the sediments contain information about the Lower Pleistocene period in Britain.
Probably quite a lot, if you work at Natural England, and want to go on working there, and keeping hold of your lucrative public sector pension (paid for out of the taxes of Mr Boggis and his neighbours, of course)…