The clock is ticking for residents living on along Britain’s crumbling cliffs – with some homeonwers looking at less than six months before their homes crash into the sea.
Owners of doomed homes in erosion hotspots fear they have been abandoned by the Government with coastal defence measures restricted to more populated areas.
In Withernsea, Martin Overton and 50 of his neighbours, say their properties have only been spared because they live near a key road to the gas terminal at Easington.
Mr Overton, 69, a retired buyer of mining and tunnelling equipment, used a tape measure to demonstrate to a MailOnline reporter how the gap between the cliffedge and the homes of nearby residents has shrunk to just 90cm.
Mr Overton had lived in the seaside town for 16 years when he moved to his current address four years ago.
The plight of residents living along this endangered stretch of the East Riding coast are among the thousands desperately worried about losing their homes to the sea around Britian.
Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset and Norfolk are other at-risk areas, where the unrelenting force of mother nature is chipping away at the land upon which their homes stand. But for how much longer?
Less than three feet to oblivion: Some of the homes along the Withernsea coast are perilously close to the cliffedge after many years of erosion.
Martin Overton demonstrates how bad coastal erosion has affected homes along the coast in Withernsea. The retired retired buyer of mining and tunnelling equipment reveals there is just 90cm – less than three feet – between some properties and the cliff edge
Mobile homes long the coast in Withernsea, East Yorkshire have as little as 90cm between them and the edge of the cliff.
He was then devastated to learn that his new home was predicted to be at the bottom of the 50ft cliffs in five years.
He watched in horror as the cliffs began to crumble. He told Mail on Line: “The sea just whips in. When you get a high spring tide it tears it to pieces.
“When I saw my garden was 80 meters from the edge I thought it was the end. A lot of people down my street could not sell their houses.
“No one could get a mortgage because of the erosion so people just rented them out and hoped for the best.
“I used to walk my dog down the beach and it was a regular thing to see the chalet falling off the cliff into the sea.
“One house had to be physically moved about 100 meters from the edge of the cliff to the edge of the road. But it is hanging off the cliff again now.
“Since I have been living here I have seen the chip shop go, a whole night club on the holiday camp next door go, and then everything on that side of the road.”
|COASTAL AREA:||LAND ERODED AFTER 20 YEARS:|
|1. Happisburgh, Norfolk||318 feet (97m)|
|2. Kessingland, Suffolk||230 feet (70m)|
|3. Hornsea, East Riding of Yorkshire||223 feet (68m)|
|4. Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire||200 feet (61m)|
|5. Sunderland, Tyne & Wear||131 feet (40m)|
|6. Filey, North Yorkshire||131 feet (40m)|
|7. Camber, East Sussex||131 feet (40m)|
Then at the 11th hour, the home owners received the joyful news that £5.5 million had become available for defences from the European Regional Development Fund.
The rock armour saved hundreds of chalets, homes in Newsham Gardens, a cul de sac to the west of Holmpton Road and “stopped the erosion dead” according to Mr Overton.
But he and other residents are convinced it was not their plight that led to the life line.
Mr Overton explained: “The road is the main access to the gas terminal at Easington where one third of the UK’s gas came in – so they could not lose the road.”
Residents just a few miles at Tunstall have not been so fortunate. Houses in Seaside Lane leading form the village to the sea have been lost.
Six months left? With the coastal erosion rate of 223ft every 20 years, estimates would suggest these properties have less than six months before the ground beneath them gives way.
Denise Crosland from Hornsea who’s home is now close to the edge of the cliff. She says the erosion is actually worse in the summer, when the cliffs dry out
The Hornsea mobile homes facing oblivion: Erosion is ripped more than 200ft away from the coast over 20 years
Not long left: Hornsea properties have a stunning sea view, but it has been getting a little too close for comfort with every passing year
Tracie Brame from Hornsea who’s home is now incredibly close to the edge of the cliff.
Also under threat is the neighbouring 126 acre Sand Le Mere Holiday Village as the embankment which protects the low lying land behind from the North Sea is steadily worn down.
Recently Maureen Dunn became the latest Seaside Lane resident to be evacuated as the erosion advanced within 11m of her brick cottage.
She has now moved into a wooden bungalow in a nearby meadow next to another one occupied by her son Derek.
Derek Dunn, 63, has been living there since the three bedroom brick bungalow he and has late wife had occupied for 15 years disappeared into the sea three years ago.
That property is now derelict and will soon become a casualty of the local council’s policy of demolishing properties before they fall down the cliff.
Maureen’s home next door has now also been condemned and she is the process of transferring the last of her belongings to the new static-caravan style home.
Maureen, who was widowed three years ago, said: “It is sad to think had a whole field between us and cliff when we first moved in there. We thought we would stay there all our lives,
“But it was all down to the weather and coastal erosion. We saw yards of land go when the Beast from the East arrived.
Motor engineer Keith Naylor, 72, chatted to Mail on Line while standing on all that was left of the road that once ran all the way along the cliffs.
He said: “I said last summer we felt abandoned and nowt has got any better since. The cliffs have continued to crumble away and we have lost a few more feet.
“But there is still no sign of the authorities doing anything about it. They come down and measure now and then but never knock on the door to tell us what’s going on.
“My next door neighbour Maureen is between here and her new chalet since moving out and her home will be demolished eventually.
“Since I came here in 1999 I have seen the caravan site toilet block go, then the fish and chip shop, the shop, the cafe, the office and then these bungalows.
Keith Naylor from Tunstall who’s home (far left) is now close to the edge of the cliff. The red brick house has already been condemned. It is now just 30ft from the edge, and could crash into the sea in three years.
Maureen Dunn from Tunstall who’s home is now close to the edge of the cliff so she has moved into a mobile home in a field nearby
Maureen Dunn’s Tunstall home has been condemned, forcing her to move into a mobile home nearby.
Keith Naylor from Tunstall. He said: ‘Last summer we felt abandoned and nowt has got any better since. The cliffs have continued to crumble away and we have lost a few more feet.’
The broken road near Keith Naylor’s Tunstall home. The sea has claimed some 200ft of the land over the last 20 years
“That’s half a dozen buildings at least. They knock them down now before they fall off. A bit comes off the edge of the cliff every week.
“But I do not look that often because what can I do about it?” He does not believe his house will go in his lifetime but is taking no chances and has already purchased some land.
In Hornsea, many static homes on the Longbeach Leisure Park are on the very brink of the cliffs with preparations underway to uproot another line of properties and move them further back.
Although many are second homes, the owners have sunk up to £90 into the newel models and many only have their pensions to fall back on.
One owner, Denise Crosland, 67, a retired hospital ward assistant, said: “Strangely enough, some say the erosion is even worse in the summer because the cliffs dry out and cracks appear.
because the cliffs dry out and cracks appear.
“Someone drives past every day in a golf buggy to check how back it is. Half a dozen of the homes are being move soon.
“They have had to move the ‘Dangerous Cliffs’ sign three times in the last two years.
“I have been coming here since I was seven and the cliffs had roads which stretched out along the cliffs. There is only the sea there now.”
Another home owner Tracie Brame, 62, a retired civil servant, said: “Our caravan is about 200 yards from the edge but it is still worrying
“You only have to take the dog for a walk and you can see the cliffs coming down. It would be nice if something could be done because it is getting horrendous – but it’s the cost.
“You only have to look at places like Norfolk to see it is happening on the coast everywhere. But the big towns always take priority when it comes to defences.”
In Filey, many of the threatened properties are in an area called Flat Cliffs, near the ionic White House, the former home of Sir Billy Butlin and famed for the holiday camp boss’s lavish parties.
The White House is now let as a holiday home and although it overlooks the beach and cliffs the present owners have made clear it is not at risk.
Retired chocolate tractors worker Chris Ogden, 76, has witnessed the destruction over the years.
He said: “It has been more than bad.
“You only have to go out for a walk to see the cliffs crumbling away all the way from Filey down to Withernsea.
Chris Ogden from Filey who’s holiday home is now close to the edge of the cliff. The cliff have eroded some 131ft in 20 years
“A lot of the cottages around here are starting to look a bit iffy and they are pile driving some of them at the back to protect them. But they can’t stop it.
“The Government are not bothered about us. If it was Buckingham Palace about to fall into the sea they would do something.”
Emergency measures to protect the 40 properties at Flat Cliffs was completed in 2019 involving draining the waterlogged cliff and propping it up with sandbags.
Martin Overton reckons the current authorities could learn a lot from the Victorians. He said: “They built the lighthouse a quarter of a mile inland because they were worried about erosion.
“There used to be a church half a mile out to see. That’s how much has gone. The rock armour has stopped it dead here but it will just the problem somewhere else.”
“We threatened to throw the environment minister off the cliff unless the money came through for the rock armour after 10 years of trying. But it was only because of the gas terminal we got it.”