Traffic driving through floodwater

Suffolk coast needs a "reef tax" to save it. Good examples abound

By: The Leader @theleaderspeaks
Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 14:20 GMT Jump to Comments

Like the Great Barrier reef the Suffolk shingle bank is threatened by man and nature. It needs yearly maintenance and the government can no longer afford to pay for it. Locals and visitors are going to have to stump up or the paths we used to walk will wash away in next winter’s storms.

In the summer the Leader attended a conference with the unpromising title of Making a Difference with Data (MADwDATA). A day of extreme tedium, boredom of a particularly grinding sort, seemed almost guaranteed. In the event, expectation was defeated and the whole thing was fascinating.

The star turn at MADwDATA, as far as the Leader was concerned, was Chris Naylor, Chief Operating Officer of the London Borough of Barnet. Speaking about austerity and local government Chris Naylor said two electrifyingly honest and courageous things.

“The money is gone and it’s never coming back” said Naylor and then he went on to predict that his generation of public servants would preside over the withdrawal of the state from the life of the citizen.

Even to canine ears the silence that greeted these statements was deafening. However it was clear by the time the applause came at the end of Chris Naylor’s presentation that the silence was not disagreement but astonishment at his audacity at saying the true thing so bluntly and so clearly.

Now parts of the Suffolk coast that suffer from yearly erosion are to be abandoned by the state and if the local residents and landowners want to avoid loosing their land and property to the sea the yearly remedial work will have to be privately and locally funded. Chris Naylor's cohort of public servants are starting to take the hard decisions.

Some of the Suffolk locals are sanguine about this and some are not amused. The truth is that either they can't or they won't be able to pay all of the cost of keeping the sea where the sea ought to be. They will have to find other ways of raising money. Soon, when you visit that part of the Suffolk coast – and lots of nature lovers, birders and twitchers do so on a regular basis – you will be charged a small fee for the privilege. When you buy a snack in a local tea shop, or park your car in a car park convenient for a nice sea side walk, there will be an extra (let's say) 20% local taxes added on for the Shingle Bank Preservation fund.

Being charged for walking along our own coastline will seem an affront to many. It seems to go completely against our idea of who we are as a nation and the historic rights we kid ourselves we each have fought so long and so hard to preserve.

This is rubbish.

If you are one of the lucky people who get to go out from Cairns, on the east coast of Australia, to visit the Great Barrier Reef, $6 of the $150-200 you will pay for your day on the reef (don’t think about it just go!) will be “reef tax”. The Australian Government sets the level of reef tax and the money raised is hypothecated to looking after the reef.

Now Suffolk has it’s own reef, threatened by man and nature. This reef needs yearly maintenance. But the money has gone and is never coming back The government can no longer afford to pay for it. The auditors have calculated that the return on the investment is not high enough to justify the expenditure. So get your Shingle Bank Tax ready. It will only be a few quid and if you don’t stump up, the paths you used to walk will wash away in next winter’s storms and shortly afterwards the coast itself will be gone.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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