Demolition looming for Happisburgh homes threatened by coastal erosion

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 January 2012

Coastal erosion at Beach Road, Happisburgh.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Coastal erosion at Beach Road, Happisburgh. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

Bulldozers are due to move in and demolish Happisburgh’s doomed cliff-top homes this spring as the blighted seaside village prepares for a new lease of life.

Angie Fitch-Tillett, North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) cabinet member for the coast, said the council’s final purchase of nine erosion-threatened Beach Road homes had been wrapped up just before Christmas.

She added: “We are looking to get them down in the foreseeable future. In the worst case scenario it will be a couple of months.”

The news has come as a huge relief to defiant Bryony Nierop-Reading, the sole remaining permanent resident, who refused to sell her bungalow.

She has been frustrated at the delay in demolishing her former neighbours’ homes and angry at having to call the police because of intruders in the empty properties.

"It’s a bit like putting a sick animal to sleep - no-one wants to do it but you know it’s for the best."

Bryony Nierop-Reading, Beach Road, Happisburgh’s only remaining resident.

Mrs Nierop-Reading, 66, claimed NNDC had failed to make them secure until contacted by the News last week.

Mrs Fitch-Tillett said time was still needed to complete legally-required asbestos and bat surveys on the properties and NNDC also had to wait until a Happisburgh landowner, who has not been identified, had submitted an application for nine replacement homes on a plot in the village.

Police confirmed that they had been alerted to two recent attempted burglaries in Beach Road.

One night last week Mrs Nierop-Reading was returning home when she heard someone tread on glass in the empty property beside hers. She headed back to the village to ring the police and said she saw someone leave the building and drive away.

“It isn’t at all pleasant. They need to get on with this demolition. They are empty, deteriorating and a security risk. It’s a bit like putting a sick animal to sleep - no-one wants to do it but you know it’s for the best,” she said.

“It will make it a bit colder up here for me, and less private, but it’s got to be done - it’s the worst of all possible worlds at the minute.”

A Midlands family have also refused to sell their two Beach Road holiday homes and the three remaining properties will leave a gap-toothed cliff-top line after demolition.

Campaigner Malcolm Kerby, of the Coastal Concern Action Group, said those who had decided to sell had received 40 to 50 per cent of their properties’ ‘no-problem’ market value out of NNDC’s £3m pot from the government’s pioneering Pathfinder scheme aimed at helping communities cope with erosion blight.

Although he believed central government should fully compensate householders for their loss, NNDC had “screwed as much out of the deal as possible for people,” based on current government policy which Mr Kerby said could be summarised as: “It’s your own fault for moving to the coast.”

He added: “What we’ve got is as good as it gets. I am very pleased with the outcome of the Pathfinder. I think when it’s complete later this year it will reset Happisburgh for the next quarter of a century in a very good way.”

Work on new Beach Road public toilets is due to begin “imminently” according to NNDC. The block will stand in a newly-built car park which replaces one nearer the cliff edge. The new facilities will be fully open at Easter and a picnic area will be ready soon afterwards.

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