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East Anglia Future 50

Bacton holiday park owners fork out thousands to hold back the sea

PUBLISHED: 15:30 11 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:59 11 March 2011

Castaway owners Anna and Richard Hollis at the base of the cliff which has had new sea defence work carried out to protect their holiday park.

Castaway owners Anna and Richard Hollis at the base of the cliff which has had new sea defence work carried out to protect their holiday park.

Archant Norfolk Photographic / James Bass © 2011

Owners of a north Norfolk holiday park perched above the sea have spent £190,000 of their own money shoring up the crumbling cliff to save their business.

"I want to make sure that people realise we have paid for these sea defences ourselves. We have had to - to protect and keep our site."

Richard Hollis

Richard and Anna Hollis have bought 1,750 tonnes of armoured rock, which has been heaped around steel sheet pilings at the base of the eroding cliff that supports their Castaways Holiday Park in Bacton.

Experts had told the couple they would lose their cliff-edge caravans this year and, when their attempts to get help with funding failed, Mr and Mrs Hollis decided to go it alone.

The couple now join two other ‘King Canute’ East Anglians who have taken a DIY approach to tackling North Sea coastal erosion.

Since 2002, retired engineer Peter Boggis has kept the waves at bay from his Easton Bavents home, near Southwold, with the help of 250,000 tonnes of clay, which he has paid to have piled in front of eroding cliffs.

And last month brought news of pensioner Michael Kennedy, who has been throwing stones and boulders against Hunstanton cliff for two hours each day, six days a week, for the past 14 years, in a one-man bid to create a tidal barrier and protect it from erosion.

Mrs Hollis, 36, said: “We didn’t have a choice. It was do or die for our holiday park.” The couple, who have a daughter Katie, five, and son Thomas, two, hope their action has stalled their erosion nightmare for another 15-25 years.

“It’s been giving us a lot of sleepless nights,” said Mr Hollis, 39. “I was hoping to leave something to my children if they want to follow in the same path. We have invested a lot of money in this place.”

Half the cost of the defence work came from the couple’s savings. Mr Hollis said they had not been able to find anyone prepared to put a value on Castaways before the work was done, because of the erosion threat, and his bank had, therefore, refused to give them a loan for the balance. In the end, they had secured one with another high street lender under the government’s loan guarantee scheme, which allows small businesses to borrow without assets as security.

The Midlands couple moved from their native Tamworth seven years ago to live Mr Hollis’ boyhood dream of owning a holiday park and bought Castaways, which includes a clubhouse, seven apartments, 35 caravans and three pine lodges.

They say steel sheet pilings were in good condition at the foot of the cliff and a desktop survey conducted before their purchase did not mention coastal erosion. The couple claim that there were no problems until 2006-2007 when work began on a new under-sea pipeline at the neighbouring Bacton Gas site.

Mr and Mrs Hollis say the beach level then began to drop and the steel pilings collapsed, undermining the cliff. They estimate that about four metres of clifftop has also since disappeared.

The couple have been involved in a long correspondence, and held many meetings, with representatives from several companies based at the site, and with North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) officials, but say their grievances have not yet been resolved.

Mr Hollis added: “These are hard times and we’ve now got a loan which we will have to pay off. I want to make sure that people realise we have paid for these sea defences ourselves. We have had to – to protect and keep our site.”

No one from North Norfolk District Council was available to comment last night.

alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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