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‘I am doing what I have to do to survive’ - former soldier on battle to save his cliff-top Hemsby home

PUBLISHED: 13:32 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:03 21 November 2018

Looking out to sea from Lance Martin's living room in The Marrams Picture: Liz Coates

Looking out to sea from Lance Martin's living room in The Marrams Picture: Liz Coates

Archant

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle and Lance Martin is prepared to protect his cliff-top property at all costs

But the former soldier has been ordered to stop carrying out DIY defences to save his £95,000 chalet from the worst the waves and weather can throw at it.

Nine months ago his home faced oblivion teetering on the edge as the Beast from the East pounded the coast.

While all around him chalets along The Marrams were demolished he stood remarkably firm, managing to drag the timber building away from danger.

Number 198 is now unrecognisable.

In the last six months he has spent more than £70,000 transforming the uninhabitable shell into his dream home - and he isn’t going to give it up without a fight.

The DIY sea defences Lance Martin has installed to protect his home in The Marrams Picture: Liz CoatesThe DIY sea defences Lance Martin has installed to protect his home in The Marrams Picture: Liz Coates

He and his partner Vicki Hobson moved back in in September but worried by high tides and easterly winds set about doing what they could to stop the sea nibbling at the dunes.

The work involved re-positioning some 50 blocks which were no longer doing their job.

Mr Martin, 60, said: “They were in a line at the foot of the dunes when the dunes were there. After the Beast from the East nobody thought to move them back.

“Four or five weeks ago we had really high tides and the beach built up by 10ft. It completely buried the blocks.

Lance Martin in the kitchen of his clifftop chalet which is unrecognisable from nine months ago Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin in the kitchen of his clifftop chalet which is unrecognisable from nine months ago Picture: Liz Coates

“I checked the tide table and saw that we were going to get some high tides and easterly winds so I decided to take the bull by the horns and hired myself a digger. It took about a week in all.

“We had just got to the stage when we were back-filling and grading the beach and there was still a 50m long trench about 7m deep and I got a phone call from Great Yarmouth Borough Council planning department telling me to stop.”

The injunction stops him from digging until December 13.

“We achieved what we wanted to achieve. I was a bit upset because we wanted to go back down the beach the following morning and fill in the rest of the trench and make it safe.”

Lance Martin's property from the back which is just 10m from the edge of the dune Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin's property from the back which is just 10m from the edge of the dune Picture: Liz Coates

Since being issued with the order Mr Martin said he had received and astonishing amount of support.

He said: “As with any endeavour you are always going to get detractors but I just refuse to engage with them and people have been fighting my corner.

“When it came to pulling the house forward I knew it was going to happen come hell or high water.

“Everybody could have done it, it is such a pity. I did not know many people at the time but if we had got together we could have saved nine of them at least.

Lance Martin outside the home he has rescued and transformed and continues to battle to save Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin outside the home he has rescued and transformed and continues to battle to save Picture: Liz Coates

“It is just about having the determination and the guts. Twenty-two years in the army and 17 in security has put that kind of spirit in me.

“I completely understand where GYBC are coming from. But we are in a desperate situation here and I want to save my property. If I had not done it when I did I could see me nearly being in the sea again.

“The last three or four days when the tide has been high we have slept really badly.

“There have been things clanging about in the yard and we do not know what they are.

Lance Martin at the back of his home overlooking the defences that have fallen foul of the borough council Picture: Liz CoatesLance Martin at the back of his home overlooking the defences that have fallen foul of the borough council Picture: Liz Coates

“I have been out there at 2.30am watching the waves crash on the beach.

“It is my own choice. I do not expect any sympathy. It is my life and I want to lead it the way I want to.

“I have not taken the decision lightly, I am doing what I have to do to survive and I feel a lot more secure now.

“Where would I find another place like this?

“As it was I was quite happy with it but as it is now I am more than happy. It is fantastic. I get so many compliments from people walking past.”

The transformation has seen around 75pc of the original building ripped down - most of which is still at the back of the property.

It now sits on brick piers making it easier to move again.

In March he lost between 25 and 30m and now only has 10m to spare.

When he bought the property around 18 months ago it was in a secluded dell with an environmental study saying he stood to lose a metre a year to storm damage, when in fact he lost his whole retirement in a week.

MORE: People ordered to stop stealing sand from Hemsby beach

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