Homeowners from Hemsby in Norfolk could only watch on as their clifftop homes were destroyed this week. The devastated families have been forced to leave their wooden houses because they are just inches away from falling into the sea due to coastal erosion. One of the people affected, Sue said that, despite living within one metre of the cliff edge, she was shocked when asked to leave her home.
Sue, who did not wish to give her full name, and her neighbours thought they would get planning permission to move their homes back from the edge of the cliff, but now their homes have been destroyed.
She told the BBC: “It’s really annoying, it’s all your hopes and dreams collapsed into nothingness.”
One of her neighbours, Mary Withey, has also had her home destroyed. She was equally frustrated.
She added: “I’m not OK with it, it’s been my home, I don’t want to move… it’s very sad.
“When I first heard I was in shock and today I’ve just been tearful, it’s horrible.”
Ms Withey and her partner had lived in the home for four years.
The head of property and asset management at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Jane Beck, said the plan was to destroy the three properties before the next high tide – meaning they all had to come down within a day.
She said: “It’s extremely sad for those people and we’re trying to do everything we possibly can to help them through that process.”
Other properties in The Marrams, Hemsby, could be next as they are also at risk of falling into the sea.
Noel Galer, Great Yarmouth Borough councillor and from the local area, fears that the removal of homes could end up harming the local economy.
He said: “It’s the place where everybody’s children tend to go to get a holiday job when they are 16 in the summer holidays and when they’re at university when they come back.
“You can just imagine with virtually no other industry or commerce in Hemsby, I feel that about 90 per cent of Hemsby’s economy is dependent on their tourism and if you were to lose the next bit of Hemsby.
“It’s going to be very difficult to see how that holiday industry is going to continue to operate if you start chiselling little bits away from it.
“I think that the decline when you start to lose parts of it would be quite dramatic. I have a feeling that Hemsby would lose its prominence quite quickly.”
Mr Galer added that the local area needs the tourism industry for employment opportunities. Without it, many in Hemsby could struggle.
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He continued: “It’s so important. It’s difficult to stress how it would be if Hemsby lost 50 metres in a huge storm or a succession of storms over a week or so. It would be horrendous.
“Can you imagine that with a large number, a majority, of the bookings for Hemsby holidays coming from homegrown areas in the UK, the incredible effect that might have on people thinking: ‘Oh crumbs, we were thinking of going to Hemsby, we better cancel our holiday – looks like it’s going to be closed forever?’
“We could have a really bad year now as a result of bad news and people making assumptions over a few days when this sort of terrible thing is happening and lose a lot of business.”
Mr Galer said that people may have chosen to stay in their homes despite the risks because “this is the only place they can find to live because of the cost.”
He called on better sea protection infrastructure so that people won’t have to be evacuated from their own homes in the future.
Mr Galer concluded: “Unless we have some kind of sea defence protection that presumably will continue, especially with the increased energy and the climate weather system that’s hitting our shores.”
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