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'We'll never move' - Happisburgh residents stand firm in the face of coastal erosion threat

PUBLISHED: 11:42 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:48 09 May 2019

The coast Happisburgh in 2018, which is subject to gradual erosion. Photo: Mike Page

The coast Happisburgh in 2018, which is subject to gradual erosion. Photo: Mike Page

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It may be teetering on the brink of a geological process that has been going on for millennia, but it seems many Happisburgh residents are unlikely to up sticks any time soon.

An aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2001. Photo: Mike PageAn aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2001. Photo: Mike Page

The village was singled out in an Environment Agency report on managing flooding and coastal change until 2100, which even suggests some coastal communities will have to be abandoned.

But despite erosion slowly eating away the cliffs, lifelong resident Kirsty Ritchie said few people were willing to move on.

Miss Richie, 46, said it was a "great shame" the authorities were not doing more to slow erosion.

She said: "It's a very sad situation and it seems an incredible waste. Defences aren't going to stop the sea, nothing is, but you can delay it a little way.

Bryony Nierop-Reading has had to demolish her clifftop home in Happisburgh in 2017 to comply with a council eviction order because of erosion to the cliffs. Picture: MILES JERMYBryony Nierop-Reading has had to demolish her clifftop home in Happisburgh in 2017 to comply with a council eviction order because of erosion to the cliffs. Picture: MILES JERMY

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"The groynes they had in the Sixties and Seventies did do the job but since they took them out it has got worse and worse. Now there's nothing to stop the sea from battering the cliffs on a daily basis and it seems an absolute disgrace they're not prepared to do anything.

"I was born and bred in Happisburgh and will never move. I think there's a lot of people who feel the same way. But I think there are a lot of people who won't move to Happisburgh because of it - they think it affects property prices."

The Norfolk coastline has been eroding for thousands of years, but it is now taking place faster than many expected in places such as Happisburgh, due to factors such as soft cliffs and long shore drift.

An aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2007. Photo: Mike PageAn aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2007. Photo: Mike Page

But Daniel Trett, co-owner of Stalham-based Trett Phillips Residential estate agents, said the threat of erosion and flooding was failing to have an effect on property prices.

Mr Trett said amenities such as a popular infant school were still drawing people to Happisburgh, and he had even seen healthy interest in properties which had been flooded in recent years in nearby Walcott.

He said: "We haven't seen an impact on pricing and the owners who are selling are really positive. I think a lot of people accept that if they live by the coast there is an element of risk, but they are still buying property there."

A five-bedroom house in Beach Road, Happisburgh, sold for £282,500 in January, having previously sold for £87,500 in 2006. And another home in the same road sold for £190,000 in January last year, a 170pc increase on its sale price 14 years earlier.

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