Cliff top homeowner loses latest legal battle over erosion

Britain's shifting shores claim another victim. Mark Rowe reports

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The dispute over the right of householders to protect their property against coastal erosion has taken another twist, after the Court of Appeal confirmed that the threatened cliffs of Easton Bavents in Southwold, Suffolk, should be legally recognised as a site of national conservation importance.

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The ruling is likely to strengthen the case of Natural England, which wants the fossil-bearing cliffs to be allowed to erode naturally. A local householder, Peter Boggis, has erected sea defences in front of the cliffs in an attempt to defend his house from coastal erosion. His property now stands just 270ft from the sea.

A High Court had previously ruled that Mr Boggis, 78, a retired engineer, was able to protect his home from falling into the sea, and that Natural England’s desire to permit erosion for scientific reasons was unlawful. However, the Court of Appeal has quashed that ruling.

Because the sea defence work carried out by Mr Boggis was done without planning permission, the Court of Appeal has said he must apply for this retrospectively – and with the site now confirmed as a SSSI, it will be harder for him to argue his case.

The dispute is now likely to be dealt with by the local planning authority – but with the area now confirmed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it will be harder for Mr Boggis to argue his case against the government’s conservation advisor.

The dispute was reported in Countryfile Magazine in February. Natural England says it sympathises with Mr Boggis and has no desire to see him lose his home, and that it feels a mutually acceptable coastal defence scheme may be possible.

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Mr Boggis has indicated he may try and petition the newly formed Supreme Court, or challenge the ruling in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.