"The frontline of climate change" The Norfolk village falling into the sea

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

A campaigner working to protect a Norfolk village from falling into the sea has made an emotional plea for more to be done to save it.

The rate at which Happisburgh is being lost to the sea is increasing, but the village is not just being attacked by the waves -  surface water running off the land is also causing the cliffs to crumble.

The village in North Norfolk, has long been facing the threat of coastal erosion and climate change. In recent weeks the cliffs along the coastline have been the location of a number of landslides and cliff falls, leading authorities to issue several safety warnings.

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

A Second World War pillbox is now perilously close to the cliff edge and in November a landslide took out a portion of the coastal footpath.

But the recent spate of land loss has not been caused by the sea but surface water running off the fields which has saturated the cliffs.

Malcolm Kerby, one of the co-founders of the village's Coastal Action Group which campaigned for improved coastal defences around the country and remedies for communities affected by coastal erosion, said the village was being pincered by the land and the sea.

Malcolm Kirby from Happisburgh's Coastal Concern Action Group on the beach. Picture: Danielle Booden

Malcolm Kerby from Happisburgh's Coastal Concern Action Group on the beach. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The 80-year-old said: "There are months left for the pillbox and years left for the lighthouse but the whole lot is scheduled to go, it's all likely set to go in the next 50-years. The rate of erosion has increased, it's much greater than it was 20, 25 years ago."


You may also want to watch:


Mr Kerby said surface water running off the fields, which in winter froze and expanded, having much the same effect on the cliffs as icy conditions on a frozen pipe "caused the biggest problem".

"What is happening now with the gouges in the field, it's not being eroded, it's the slumping of the cliff because it's saturated with water.

Most Read

"It reaches a point where the combined weight of cliff material is such that it can't cling to the cliff anymore so it just runs," he said.

Mr Kerby said Happisburgh was "on the frontline of climate change" with residents facing losing their homes but like many places facing coastal erosion had been "abandoned" by government.

"It's not just Happisburgh, many places around the country have been completely abandoned by central government," he said.

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Kerby said: "Climate change is no longer debatable, it's started and it's getting stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger.

"It's not a problem that's going to go away, it will go on and on and it will get worse. We're on the front line of climate change, there's no doubt about that."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment.

“That is why we are doubling our funding for flood defences in England to £5.2 billion over the next six years, helping build 2,000 new defence schemes and protect 336,000 properties.

“Local authorities are best placed to understand their coastline and manage the risks through Shoreline Management Plans, but we are working on a £36 million six-year programme to help them better understand the risks that climate change poses to those living and working on our coasts.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus