A former soldier has today saved his clifftop house from the wrecking ball after dramatically managing to drag it back 10ft from the abyss.
Lance Martin’s victory came after more than 24 hours of frantic efforts to move the wooden property using huge diggers, but just after midday he raised his arms in triumph as the first movement was evident.
The former Grenadier Guard had been given a ‘high noon’ deadline by officials from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, telling him that if the contractors were unable to move the house significantly by 12pm, the council would have to consider issuing a demolition order.
Lance’s rag-tag army of friends, neighbours and contractors, whose men and plant were borrowed from a nearby holiday park in Hemsby, Norfolk, toiled all yesterday and this morning to get the wooden structure to shift.
By yesterday evening, no-one was optimistic as their efforts had failed to move the house a single inch.
BEFORE AND AFTER: The house in Hemsby, Norfolk, is pictured yesterday (left) and today (right) after it was dragged back 10ft from the abyss
Lance Martin, 65, raises his arms in joy after the successful movement in Hemsby, Norfolk
The victory came after more than 24 hours of frantic efforts to move the wooden property
The team had hoped that a huge telegraph pole, which was hoisted to side of the property facing the sea, would pull the building in one piece once steel cables and chains were attached on either end.
But as yesterday drew to a close, the pole snapped like matchwood due to the pressure on each end, so a way had to be found to pull it from the middle.
A key breakthrough came after the team realised that a concrete plinth under part of the house was impeding movement.
This was broken up in stages by hand and removed, then a thick canvas strap was fed underneath to the back of the property, and attached to the telegraph pole still braced against the back edge of the structure, now chained in several places so that the fracture did not matter.
As the powerful 13-tonne digger hauled on the central strap, fed through the front door, a second, smaller excavator managed to shift one corner of the building a fraction, using a chain attached to its hydraulic arm, at which point Lance, 65, raised his arms in triumph and hugged friends and supporters.
After repeating the process several times, the entire property – though it clearly suffered some damage in the process – had been edged more than 3m back from the cliff edge towards safety.
A council official, who had arrived at the property around noon, made his way back down the road after seeing the house moving.
‘It’s given us the breathing space we needed,’ a delighted Mr Martin told MailOnline.
‘Now we’ve shown it can be moved, we can make proper arrangements to put the house across the road once we’ve cleared the site, which will hopefully give me the time I need.’
Earlier Mr Martin said he must ‘move or lose’ the tiny two-bedroom wooden house which is now barely three feet from the edge of the disappearing cliff.
Mr Martin’s rag-tag army of friends, neighbours and contractors toiled to move the house
The former Grenadier Guard had been given a ‘high noon’ deadline by council officials
The entire property was edged more than 10ft (3m) back from the cliff edge towards safety
The former soldier dramatically saved his clifftop house from the wrecking ball
But yesterday, after trying all day to move the property on its concrete base, tonight he called a halt, temporarily at least.
‘I’m not giving up,’ he said last night, after a 30ft (10m) long telegraph pole snapped like matchwood under the pressure of the earth-movers as it was braced against the house to avoid damaging the structure.
The contractors’ time and their machinery were donated gratis by one of Mr Martin’s neighbours, owner of The Pines, a former Pontins holiday camp in Hemsby, where major rebuilding is taking place.
Friends from the Beach Café kept a supply of croissants and bacon rolls to keep the workforce going as the morning wore on.
Mr Martin said: ‘These guys have been terrific and I’m so grateful to them and to the Pines for their help, as well as the local lifeboat crew who brought us the telegraph poles. The whole community has helped with this.’
The fast-moving drama came after three properties along the same beach, were demolished at the weekend following a succession of extremely high tides on the east Norfolk coast.
Mr Martin’s army of friends, neighbours and contractors worked to shift the wooden structure
Lance Martin and his team moved the house from the edge of the cliff in Norfolk today
Mr Martin purchased the house at Hemsby in Norfolk for £95,000 in 2017
He was previously told by a surveyor to expect 3ft of dune loss each year due to erosion
A fourth property was demolished today, almost simultaneously as Mr Martin’s was saved.
In 2018 Mr Martin was able to drag his wooden property named ‘Dune Fall’ away from the coast, using heavy machinery, and now he knows his only chance to save it means having to do the same again.
But having lost 13ft (4m) to the sea in just the last weekend, time, tide – and the odds – are mounting against him.
He was one of five residents of The Marrams in Hemsby to be evacuated last Thursday, after a 11ft (3.5m) tide threatened their homes once again.
Now he says he wants to drag it back a further 130ft (40m) with a tractor, after several neighbouring homes were demolished last weekend.
Although Mr Martin has been granted time for his ‘adaptation plan’ (moving the property) before demolition is considered necessary, he said he had been told privately he was ‘number one’ on the demolition list.
He told MailOnline: ‘The council first of all, gave me a week to ten days to move it.
The property suffered some damage in the process but was edged back from the cliff
Mr Martin suffered almost 100ft of dune loss during the Beast from the East storm in 2018
Earlier Mr Martin said he must ‘move or lose’ the tiny two-bedroom wooden house
The interior of the house in Hemsby, Norfolk, following the move by Mr Martin’s team
‘But obviously their timetable moves with the record erosion around the coastline.
‘I’ve heard this morning that I’ve been put down as number one on the demolition list, which is a bit worrying and upsetting.
‘Obviously, I can only work as fast as people can get the machinery to me. I can’t do anything else. So on but they’re being asked to belong.
‘That’s why I’m putting a call out for as much machinery and planning to come down as possible so that we can get it done. ASAP.’
Mr Martin purchased the house for £95,000 in 2017 and insisted he could stand on its roof and still not see the sea when he first moved in.
He said he had no regrets about buying the property with its ‘infinity pool’ visible through the window, as he jokingly referred to the North Sea.
He was told by a surveyor to expect 3ft of dune loss each year due to erosion, but revealed he lost almost 100ft alone during the Beast from the East storm in 2018.
Each of his neighbours have been evicted from their adjacent properties amid safety fears, but Mr Martin has always insisted he has no intention of leaving his dream home.
His previous plan to move the house inland cost him £100,000 and he put his own makeshift coastal defences on the beach below, with concrete blocks, but today those appeared to have little effect as the road beyond his house fell into the sea.
The council previously said it would have to consider issuing a demolition order
The team fed a thick canvas strap underneath the back of the property and attached it to a pole
Lance Martin was helped by a team of friends, neighbours and contractors in Norfolk
Today he told MailOnline he had mentally prepared himself to walk away from the property, saying: ‘I’m ever the optimist. There’s always opportunities, and I’ll find somewhere. I’m not particularly worried.
‘After 22 years in the Army, you learned to walk away from things and put them in little boxes. I will shed a tear for a minute or two then I’ll pack my bags and move on.
‘It’ll be the end of that fantastic infinity pool beyond me. Waking up to that every morning actually feeling the bass rumble of the sea through the through the building, is just a fantastic way to live.’
Mr Martin served in the Grenadier Guards from 1978 to 2000 and moved to the coast after he retired from his security job and sold his flat in Dagenham, East London.
A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s coastal management team, Coastal Partnership East (CPE), said today: ‘Great Yarmouth Borough Council, via CPE, is initiating emergency works to reduce the erosion risk to the main access road for the Marrams.
‘This road provides access for a number of properties and is also the conduit for utilities like water and electricity.’
‘All those with homes at risk have been visited by the council’s housing and community teams who continue to offer advice.
‘Storage space for people who need somewhere to put belongings has been organised and assistance in moving items is being provided.’