Norfolk’s reality is Sidmouth’s nightmare 

“Last year, a 1.3km (0.8 mile) rock berm at the base of the cliff was approved in principle, but the council funding for the £15m scheme was challenging to obtain, with just £2.5m available from the government.”

Work to demolish three homes close to the cliff edge in Norfolk has started after high tides cut into sandy cliffs.

Residents have left their wooden properties in The Marrams in Hemsby, some of which are within 1m (3.2ft) of the cliff edge and at risk of collapse.

By Kate Scotter, Jon Ironmonger, Martin Barber & Andrew Turner (online article contains many graphic images)

Several outbuildings were lost to the sea as high tide hit at about 21:00 GMT on Friday.

Sue, whose property was the first to be taken down, said it was “soul-destroying”.

The demolition of her house is now complete, and the two other properties will be flattened on Sunday, contractors on the site say.

Along with her neighbours, Sue spent the morning hurriedly packing up her belongings before the demolition teams moved in.

Sue, who did not want to give her surname, said she wished more could have been done to save her home of three years.

“It’s really annoying, it’s all your hopes and dreams collapsed into nothingness,” she said.

This time last week there was up to 20ft between her property and the cliff edge, and then there was just 3ft.

She was told she would have to get planning permission for her home to be moved back from the cliff edge but there was not enough time.

Watching her house being destroyed with her head in her hands, she said: “We’ve got some very happy memories there because it’s got lovely energy to it, lovely atmosphere.”

Mary Withey, whose home is also set to be demolished, said she and her partner “had got what we can”.

“I’m not OK with it, it’s been my home, I don’t want to move… it’s very sad,” said Ms Withey, who has lived in her house for four years,

“When I first heard I was in shock and today I’ve just been tearful, it’s horrible.”

Jane Beck, head of property and asset management at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, had initially planned to demolish all three properties within the day, before the next high tide at 21:38.

“It’s extremely sad for those people and we’re trying to do everything we possibly can to help them through that process,” Ms Beck said.

The beach and surrounding area at Hemsby should be avoided, she added, and she urged people to stay away for their own safety.

The only access road to properties on the Marrams has also been cordoned off and is expected to collapse.

Fire crews knocked on doors on Friday and urged anybody still in the affected properties to leave their homes.

During the evening, a shed and a playhouse toppled over the cliff but Hemsby Independent Lifeboat crew managed to rescue two chickens from the shed which they said “put a smile on everyone’s face”.

Daniel Hurd, coxswain with the lifeboat crew, said it had been a “long old night”.

The Highways Agency blocked off the road on Friday evening and BT responded to a telegraph pole that was tilting on the edge.

“Luckily we managed to get that on to the beach and not risk public safety by it falling on top of them,” he said.

“My concern now is that if [the erosion] gets to the car parks, we possibly may have to shut the doors on the lifeboat station and then you won’t have sea cover off Hemsby at all… and that is serious,” he added.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s chief executive, Sheila Oxtoby, said the authority was looking to bring some rock on to the beach to protect the road access to a number of other properties as a “temporary solution”.

It is understood 1,900 tonnes of granite are due to arrive on Tuesday.

Ms Oxtoby said: “At the same time as dealing with the immediate issue, we’re also looking at how we can use our emergency powers to provide a temporary rock berm solution to give us more time for the main scheme.”

Mr Hurd, however, said the current situation was “heart-breaking” and could have been resolved earlier.

He said: “I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous, this has been an emergency for years and it’s taken this weekend for them to see it’s an emergency to then get a rock berm put on the beach.”

Borough councillor, James Bensley, said he could understand people were frustrated but there had been “so much bureaucracy”.

“It’s a real minefield of making sure that what local government and the authorities do is the correct line of procedure and I can totally understand people’s frustrations,” he said.

“We [also] have to make sure it works, we have to make sure it’s cost affordable and doesn’t affect further south down the coast.

“I know the process and the time that has been taken is exhausting and I can fully appreciate and understand that but we have to do it correctly and with the tools that we have got and through the right channels.”

Hemsby, near G.reat Yarmouth, is home to about 3,000 people and was once home to a Pontins holiday camp

Seven bungalows along The Marrams had to be demolished when sandy cliffs washed away in March 2018 and, in December 2013, “the worst storm surge in 60 years”, destroyed seven homes.

Last year, a 1.3km (0.8 mile) rock berm at the base of the cliff was approved in principle, but the council funding for the £15m scheme was challenging to obtain, with just £2.5m available from the government.

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