Dozens of families on the east coast of England could be forced to abandon their homes as coastal erosion threatens to doom their properties to the sea.
A recent report by climate group One Home estimated that coastal homes in England worth a total of £584million could be lost to cliff collapses by 2100.
The report accounts for 2,218 homes across 21 coastal communities that have been brought closer to crumbling cliffs over the years.
Some homeowners expressed nervousness about having children stay overnight while others say they are too scared to cut the grass holding together the narrow stretches of turf along the cliff edges.
Grenadier Guard Lance Martin, 65, is among the householders in Hemsby, Norfolk who may be forced to move homes.
Grenadier Guard Lance Martin, 65, fears for his property on the Norfolk Coast.Homeowners have said they’re afraid to cut the grass along the cliff edges
A recent report by climate group One Home estimated that coastal homes worth £584million could fall into the sea by 2100 as a result of coastal erosion
Mr Martin is living in the last house left on his road, The Marrams, in a one-bed detached house where the cliff edge hugs his back patio fence.
His 11 neighbours have all been forced to abandon their properties to the sea since 2017, when Mr Martin moved in.
He only managed to remain on his property by dragging it 10.5 metres back from the cliff edge with a tractor after the 2018 Beast from the East storm ate away metres of ground from under his kitchen.
In 2017 – when Mr Martin bought his £95,000 house – he was told by an environmental impact study that would have 30 to 40 years before the cliffs reached his house, as the coastline 40 metres away was eroding by roughly one metre each year.
Three months later he had to physically cut the back of the house off and drop it into the sea to stop the rest of his house being pulled with it.
Half of Mr Martin’s house has already been lost to the sea.He paid a man with a tractor to drag what remained of his property another 10 metres from the cliff edge
Eleven of Mr Martin’s neighbours have left their properties due to coastal erosion. Mr Martin remains in his one-bedroom house, which he moved into
‘I was standing in the kitchen and heard a great big horrendous crack.I looked down and saw the sea underneath my feet,’ Mr Martin explained.
He has watched his neighbours move away one by one as their houses were demolished by the council after being deemed a public health and safety risk.
He said: ‘It was horrible, some went slowly, some very quickly.I got the council to delay demolishing my house because I was determined to save my property.’
He was given two days to ‘pull his house back’ from the cliff. He hired a man with a tractor and a winch and together they felled two telegraph poles at the front and back of the property and pulled the house back by nearly 11 metres.
Coastal erosion on the Norfolk coast is putting more houses at risk.Eleven homeowners on The Marrams street have already abandoned their properties
Nothing is safe from the falling cliffs, including houses, fences and other infrastructure.Some measures, such as using rocks to protect remaining cliff faces or building sea walls, can slow erosion
Ian Brennan is Chairman of the Save Hemsby Coastline charity, which has spent 10 years campaigning in an effort to convince Great Yarmouth Borough Council to take the erosion of the village seriously.
The 63-year-old retired telecoms manager lives further into the village but cares deeply about the problems his friends and neighbours face.
According to Mr Brennan, 90 homes are at risk of being lost in Hemsby over the next 25 years.
The final property that remains on The Marrams road in Norfolk as all the other houses have been abandoned to the sea by their owners
Residents are currently arguing for a rock berm, which is a ridge constructed of compacted soil, gravel, rocks, and stones to direct water away from a particular area
Cliff warnings are common in areas with significant coastal erosion as rock falls can be very dangerous if people are walking on the beach below
The beach in Norfolk on the east coast of England, which has been encroaching on properties much more quickly than surveyors believed that it would
‘The whole thing is a political decision,’ Mr Brennan claimed.
‘In Holland, most of the country should be in the water but they don’t have this problem because they spend the money that needs to be spent to protect the country.
‘I’m trying to persuade people that Hemsby is worth saving.’
He is currently waiting on planning permission for a multi-million-pound rock berm to be put in place to slow the erosion of the coast.
A rock berm is a ridge constructed of compacted soil, gravel, rocks, and stones to direct water away from a particular area.Mr Brennan is hoping to raise money to fund the project.
In 2017 – when Mr Martin bought his £95,000 house – he was told by an environmental impact study that would have 30 to 40 years before the cliffs reached his house.But just three months later, half of his house was lost to the water
Erosion can cause significant property damage as it removes the foundations supporting buildings and other structures near the cliff edge
Lance Martin’s home is the only one on his street that remains, as all of his neighbours abandoned their properties to the sea
He said: ‘We can’t stop global warming, we can’t stop coastal erosion, but we can slow it down. We’re trying to buy time so people like Lance don’t have to worry.
‘Every time a storm hits the residents are nervous that they may have to walk away from their house with nothing but a carrier bag.
‘That’s the mental health impact we’re talking about.These people deserve to get a good night’s sleep – a rock berm will buy us 25 years. That’s enough time for people to decide what they want to do with their house and with their lives.’
Thirteen miles up the coast is Happisburgh, Norfolk, a village that has also experienced the loss of more than an entire street and 34 homes in the last 20 years.
Coastal erosion is caused by the repeated action of waves against the cliffs.Action can be taken to slow down coastal erosion, including building sea walls
Retired teacher Bryony Nierop-Reading, 77, lost her bungalow to erosion during a huge tidal surge in 2013. She had moved into a caravan further inland that night because she felt so unsafe in her home.
The next morning, she found the bungalow was still standing, but the back third of her home was hanging metres off of a cliff edge – that used to be solid ground.
‘To go from having a house to live in to not having a house to live in is shattering.It made me understand more how people who suffered in the tsunami in 2010 – there were pictures of people just sitting around,’ she recalled.
‘You get hit by the shock, then you can’t make decisions. It took me about six months before I could think properly.I struggled.’
The coastal town on Happisburgh has lost more than an entire street and 34 homes in the last 20 years to the sea as cliffs collapse
Coastal erosion is caused by the repeated action of waves and water against the cliffs.It can cause collapses and threaten nearby properties
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