Clifftop homeowners call for support

Villagers living in a small coastal community are calling for help to protect their bid for relocation before the winter weather speeds up erosion of the cliffs beneath their homes.

Two homes in Easton Bavents, north of Southwold, are just six metres from the cliff edge and owners fear they are in danger of falling into the sea.

In August, the homeowners were told that Waveney District Council was seeking legal advice on creating an escrow (a document kept in the custody of a third party) to protect the owners' residential land-use rights even if their homes are lost, helping them to relocate further inland.

The proposition is part of Waveney's �1.5m Pathfinder project, a government-funded scheme to explore options for communities at risk of erosion.

But three months later, the legal letter of intent has still not arrived and Paul England, whose son owns one of the houses on the cliff edge, said he is worried that winter storms will worsen erosion before anything gets done.

Mr England said: 'Our hope is that this document will give people assurances that planning decisions will allow them to relocate and rebuild on safe land, but we don't yet have the letter and it's becoming a real emergency.

'The people of Easton Bavents need help. We don't want to complain about the situation, we just want some action. The erosion here is so fast that we're losing about a metre from the cliffs some days, and the winter weather will speed that up.'

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David McGinnis, Waveney Pathfinder project officer, said the council is still waiting for the final draft of legal advice.

He said: 'A meeting has been arranged for November 2 between Mr England and the council's head of planning, Phil Ridley.

'That meeting will be the catalyst to an application that hopefully will deliver the scheme for the residents of Easton Bavents in an acceptable form for the local community and Waveney as the local planning authority.

'Waveney is chasing the barrister to provide the draft letter for us to provide the assurance Mr England needs, as was promised.

'We are very supportive of this concept, but there has to be a proper process to be followed which, unfortunately, is creating delays which Mr England finds understandably unacceptable.'

He added that the Pathfinder project is already working with residents in Easton Bavents and Corton. This includes funding costs of clearing the beach at Easton Bavents of the debris from a house which fell off the cliff ten years ago, gaining money to pay for the future demolition costs for two houses in the village and paying for a study into a solution to stop surface water drainage which is eroding cliffs at Corton.