Erosion fears for historic Norfolk fishing homes after December 5 tidal surge
10:12 24 February 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
Residents living in a string of historic fishermen’s cottages on Norfolk’s east coast say they have been “left out” of sea defence schemes in the wake of the December 5 tidal surge.
The storm gouged huge chunks out of the fragile cliffs at Newport and brought the biting tide closer to Newport Cottages - a terrace of homes that date back to the 19th century.
The distinctive properties were built for people who made a living from the sea using pebbles from the beach and lime mortar. Last March they were ringed inside a conservation area by Great Yarmouth Borough Council to ensure their preservation.
But despite the protective label, residents feel nothing has been done to guard their homes - now 150 foot from the edge - against the pounding North Sea and any future storms.
Ian Brennan, who has owned his cottage for two years, said around 30 foot of the dunes were washed away on December 5, and the homes were now protected by nothing more than a “big sand castle”.
The 54-year-old BT manager said: “We do feel a bit left out. Despite the fact it’s seen as an important area we still get very little or no support.
“You look in one direction and Scratby has some sort of sea defence, so does Winterton. From Long Beach right the way down to the cottages is nothing.
“We love it here, it’s so special. We don’t have to have that many more storms and they’re gone.”
Fellow homeowner Dean Lardner said residents had called on local councillors and the Geoffrey Watling charity - which owns Hemsby beach - for help, but it had got to the stage where they had started to take matters into their own hands.
“We have put up homemade signage to try and keep people off [the dunes] because of the erosion and used shrubbery to try and block some of the gaps,” he added. “It’s the residents that are doing it.”
The charity gave locals permission to push ahead with DIY sea defences last year and in October huge concrete blocks were loaded along the Marrams.
The defences are now being monitored to see if they can help turn the tide against erosion, and if successful money raised by campaign group Save Hemsby Coastline could be used to buy and install more blocks, to run from Hemsby gap to Newport.
John Weston, managing agent for the charity - which put forward £11,000 for the DIY scheme - stressed the historic homes had not been abandoned.
He said: “There’s no question of Newport Cottages having been deliberately left out of anything. We just haven’t been able to do anymore work than what we have done. Only a limited amount of work has been permitted but all of that has been done.”
He added that fencing across the Marrams - to stop people increasing the risk of erosion - was being “reviewed” but the dunes are still believed to be moving.