March 12 2014 Latest news:
Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Clifftop shadows, where static caravans once stood, graphically illustrate Happisburgh’s coastal erosion ticking timebomb.
"We’ve lost four metres of cliff in the last three months. My father’s been here nearly 50 years and has never known it this bad."
The North Sea’s relentless ravages have eaten away at the holiday business at Happisburgh sending once-firm land cascading down the crumbling cliffs.
A dozen caravans have had to be hauled away from the dangerous front line to firm ground nearby.
Now the Lomax family, which owns the shrinking Manor Caravan Park site, is urgently looking for a permanent new site safer inland.
It will mean dramatic changes for the long-established caravan park, forced out by the sea whose doorstep presence has always been its proudest boast.
But the attraction, which has 134 static caravans and space for tourers and tents, is just one among many businesses along north Norfolk’s fragile coastline battling both natural and economic challenges.
Chris Lomax, who owns Manor Caravan Park with his parents Gerald and Pauline, said the rate of coastal erosion was accelerating. “We’ve lost four metres of cliff in the last three months,” he said.
“My father’s been here nearly 50 years and has never known it this bad.”
Experts calculate the site could be lost to the sea by 2025.
Mr Lomax has now applied to North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) for planning permission to temporarily relocate 12 caravans for up to three years - by which time he estimates a further 25 will need to be moved.
Meanwhile, the inevitable permanent move inland has already had an impact on the business, he said. About a quarter of those who rented space for their static caravans had said they did not want to renew without a sea view.
But he is hoping that he has found the right new site in Happisburgh for the business, which he said was probably the biggest money-spinner for other village enterprises.
Mr Lomax said the loss of holiday-season visitors was likely to result in a significant loss of trade for other local businesses such as the pub, shop and post office - as well as community events such as the annual lifeboat day.
With the help of NNDC’s Pathfinder Project, Mr Lomax has identified an eight-hectare (19.8 acres) site behind Happisburgh School.
It is also behind the plot, off North Walsham Road, earmarked for nine new homes to replace the cliff-edge Beach Road properties demolished as part of Pathfinder, which is using £3m of government money to help communities adapt to coastal erosion.
Mr Lomax said the choice of site was tricky as consideration had to be given to both its visual impact, adjoining a conservation area, and the need to be within striking distance of the beach and services such as the shop and pub.
He had started consulting the community, including the parish council, about his proposal.
If an application was approved, he estimated it would take about five years to complete the move, during which time he hoped screening landscaping would have started to establish itself.
An NNDC spokesman said up to €200,000 euros - about £160,000 - of Pathfinder scheme cash was available to help the caravan site relocate.