Homeowner who watched a digger tear down her clifftop home which was just inches away from toppling into the sea says she was only told about the demolition the day before it happened
- Two homes near the crumbling cliff edge in Hemsby, Norfolk, were demolished
- Resident says she hoped the council would relocate her home from the edge
A widow has described her shock after claiming her seaside home close to a crumbling cliff edge was demolished at just a day’s notice.
Sue, who did not wish to give her surname, said she only learned on Friday that her property on the Marrams in Hemsby, Norfolk, would be pulled down on Saturday.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she described a frantic rush to strip the property of all its furniture and valuables before it was torn down.
She said: ‘The council did come and help remove everything, but obviously it was a shock.
‘The week before, we had a little bit of land loss and they decided to cut the electricity off.
Homeowners were forced to look on as a digger moved in to destroy their clifftop houses that are inches away from toppling into the sea. Pictured is the house of Sue, which was demolished
Images show the gradual deterioration of the cliff edge in the Marrons, Hemsby, Norfolk, over the last three decades
‘But in the week when I was trying to get the electricity pole re-sited and moved , I was told by the electricity people they weren’t going to re-site it, because I was going to get the building pulled back [away from the cliff edge].
‘The people who own the land had given permission for that to happen but the council didn’t want to do that.’
A number of other homes in Hemsby have been moved away from the cliff edge and Sue was hoping the same thing would happen to her property.
When asking why this didn’t take place, Sue says the local authority insisted planning permission was needed, although she argued retrospective permission could have been explored.
‘You’d think in an emergency it would be fair to have retrospective planning, [but] they said they’d served the Section 78 and there was no argument or anything, they would just demolish it.’
Ten years ago, five homes in Hemsby fell into the sea after a storm and the damage to the cliff meant that others were demolished in 2018, as part of ‘a managed retreat’ by the local authority.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council has told media it is doing everything it can for residents involved.
Despite the shock of the demolition, Sue acknowledged that the sea had been ‘dramatic’ in the prior week.
A number of other homes in Hemsby have been moved away from the cliff edge and Sue was hoping the same thing would happen to her property (pictured)
‘The last week was dramatic, the sea was wild but you’ve got a lot of factors, you’ve got (we had) the bomb blast and I heard that miles away… according to the newspapers we had an earthquake over Yarmouth, the knock-on of that must have [been big], think what a tsunami does. Even though it was 3.7 on the Richter scale, it would have had some effect on the seabed and the sea.’
Sue also said two new sandbanks had formed along the cliff edge recently.
She added: ‘I think, where we were exactly where we were, the water had been pushed in further.’
‘I hadn’t left the main property I was in. So I’m back here with things up to my eyeballs, so I’m luckier… I used to live there fulltime but unfortunately my husband died and I needed to be back [here].
‘The erosion had been really slow in that area but geographically the tides have changed, it is different – it’s not the same as three years ago.
Three residents from The Marrams in Hemsby, Norfolk, were forced to leave their wooden homes
The first of the demolished houses belonged to Sue (pictured), who hoped more could have been done to save her home for the past three years
Mary Withey, another resident whose home was being demolished, previously said: ‘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.’
She and her partner had lived in their home for four years before hearing the terrible news.
The head of property and asset management at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Jane Beck, claimed the plans were to demolish all three properties within the day, before the next high tide at 9.38pm.
‘It’s extremely sad for those people and we’re trying to do everything we possibly can to help them through that process,’ she said.
Fire crews were reported to have knocked on doors on Friday, urging those still in the affected properties to leave.
The head of property and asset management at Great Yarmouth Borough Council claimed the plans were to demolish all three properties within the day
Fire crews were reported to have knocked on doors on Friday, urging those still in the affected properties to leave
Noel Galer, Great Yarmouth Borough councillor for East Flegg ward, containing Hemsby, said: ‘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’
Hemsby resident Sue looks out from her home on the cliff edge
Several other wooden properties, built on sand dunes in The Marrams, Hemsby, are also currently at risk of collapsing into the sea.
Noel Galer, Great Yarmouth Borough councillor for East Flegg ward, containing Hemsby, said the village plays an important role in the local tourism industry.
Tearful Mary Withey was forced to remove belongings from her home on the cliff edge
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.’
The councillor said there are ‘loads’ of ‘little companies’ there.
He continued: ‘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.’
He added that there are ‘precious little other employment opportunities’ in the area.
Residents react as they watch a neighbour´s house get demolished
Sue and other neighbours who spent the morning packing their belongings before the demolition
Several other wooden properties, built on sand dunes in The Marrams, Hemsby, are also currently at risk of collapsing into the sea
Hemsby is largely built on sand which provides little protection against the raging sea, as pictured here in January 2007, but sixteen years later, on March 1, 2023, any remaining grass was long gone and some of the homes had sand up to their front door
The only access road to properties on the Marrams has been cordoned off and is expected to collapse
The shoreline has shrunk significantly in last 50 years and coastal communities risk falling into the ocean
Referencing tourism data collected by the council, Mr Galer insisted Hemsby has ‘tremendous value’ in the region.
‘It’s so important,’ he said. ‘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 home grown 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”?’
Mr Galer added: ‘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.’
On evacuated residents, the councillor said people will be ‘trying very hard’ to ensure they are looked after.
‘Some people literally have a second home which happens to be very close to the beach,’ he went on. ‘Perhaps they knew the risks and understood the risks, accepted the risks.
‘Others for various reasons may have found this is the only place they can find to live because of the cost and their circumstances and may not be so aware of what’s going on.
‘They may have felt there’s no way this is ever going to be washed away.’
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