Photos: Creeping sea threatens popular Norfolk tourist spot
09:57 07 December 2012
Concerning new images have laid bare the rapid pace at which Hemsby’s beach is disappearing into the sea.
Campaigners fear an £80m chunk of Great Yarmouth’s economy will be lost if nothing is done, and held a crisis meeting on Tuesday.
And families in bungalows just 20ft from the sea say they are losing sleep, terrified their homes will be destroyed.
Jack Bensly, chairman of the Borough Community Coastal Group, told the Mercury: “The tide came in last night and Hemsby beach was the worst I’ve ever seen it.
“From Winterton valley to Newport it’s horrendous at the moment.”
There are 19 wooden bungalows about 20ft from the sea edge at Newport.
“The sea is hitting the dune and it’s falling down, and about 15 families live in the bungalows,” he said. “There’s one lady critically ill, and she’s lying in her bed at night wondering if the sea will take her house away.”
He said homeowners at Happisburgh were offered half the value of their property to move away from the danger, but said Hemsby homeowners have been offered nothing.
More than 65 chalets have already been lost, with around 150 yards of dune lost in the last 20 years, Mr Bensly added.
And those in the tourist trade fear erosion to the beach will kill off their business.
“The beach is one of the main reasons people come to Hemsby,” explained Mr Bensley, who own’s Jack’s Seafood takeaway. “There are about 18,000 beds in Hemsby and the industry puts £80m into Yarmouth every year.
“If you spend £5m to do something to the beach it doesn’t seem so much.”
Residents have been calling for help to protect the Hemsby coastline, but say it has been like “banging your head against a wall”.
Photographer Mike Page captured the latest images of erosion at Hemsby gap and dunes further along towards Winterton at the beginning of this month.
And images as recent as 2006 show how much wider the dunes were.
Pat Gowen, of the North Sea Action Group and Marinet, said: “We had a big loss of sand in April and another about three weeks ago.
“The gales sweep the sand off the beach and it’s much steeper now because of the dredging.”
Residents say it is no longer possible to walk along the coast at high tide, as the waves come in as far as the Marram in places.
Villagers were banned from building their own sea defences by government until recently, but the final draft of the Shoreline Management Plan - released this summer, and approved by the borough council - permits it.
Government funding for Hopton, Hemsby and Winterton defences is still a distant dream - but campaigners are working to protect Hemsby’s beach.
Shirley Weymouth, borough councillor for East Flegg ward, added there are “real problems”, and solutions are being worked up.
Among the possibilities is to install around a mile of chestnut palling - thin pieces of wood with metal wire - along the dunes to help keep sand in place.
Plans are to run the palling from Hemsby to Newport and Winterton in a zig zag, but details have yet to be finalised.
The present Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) from Winterton to Scratby indicates a policy of managed realignment, and concedes all of Hemsby Marrams and up to five homes could be lost by 2025.
The document was prepared by authorities that have a responsibility for managing flooding and erosion at the coast, including the Environment Agency, Defra and local councils.