Happisburgh homeowners set to move on

Homeowners in Happisburgh whose houses are perched on the cliff-top and at risk of falling into the sea because of coastal erosion have started the process of moving out and moving on.

In Happisburgh work has been taking place as part of North Norfolk District Council's Coastal Pathfinder project with the striking of deal to compensate those whose homes are perched on the edge of Happisburgh's crumbling cliff in Beach Road.

The council was awarded �3m in 2009 from the government's pathfinder programme, which ends this autumn, to explore ways of helping coastal communities plan and adapt to coastal change.

And now the homeowners who have accepted deals, are starting to move out from the village.

One of those is Di Wrightson and her business partner, Jill Morris, whose home, Cliff House, is metres from the cliff edge.

The two, who ran a guest house and tea garden for 26 years until forced to close five years ago because their home's position made investment in improvements uneconomic, are currently in the process of moving into their new home in Northrepps.

They are also helping out at a new tea shop The Blue Willow Tea Rooms in Hamilton Road, Cromer, which opened on Monday, April 18 and is owned by Ms Morris's son James, 43, and his wife, Max, 45.

Most Read

It is a turn around as James often used to help out when he was a teenager at the Cliff House tea rooms.

Ms Wrightson said: 'The hope was always that when we retired James would take over the business in Happisburgh but that was not meant to be. So he has bought the caf� here and we are helping out.

'It has been a very stressful time, especially with helping at the caf� as well, it has all come together at the same time, trying to move out of our Happisburgh home and into our new one.'

But she said although there was sadness at leaving Happisburgh, the move and work at the new caf� was keeping them motivated.

She said: 'It has given us a bit of hope, it is something to look forward to. This is a real opportunity with a lot of possibilities for us. We also love what we do, meeting people and the different customers.'

She would not reveal exactly how much they had been offered for their home, but said it was around 45pc of what it would have been if the house was not in a 'problem' area.

She also said she aims to keep up contact with Happisburgh, retaining her role as chairman of the Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse and said she would also be paying frequent visits to the village.

Speaking about the pathfinder project she said it had 'not done enough'. She pointed to the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group's campaign for 100pc compensation, and said although they were happy to have been awarded something, there should have been full compensation for the homeowners.

Jane Archer and Chris Cutting's Happisburgh Beach Road bungalow was infamously valued at just �1 in 2008 when they tried to use it as collateral for a loan. Mr Cutting said they expect to move out in the summer, after 23 years spent raising three children in their home.

In total 13 home owners on Beach Road were made offers, 10 have now accepted the offers, with two owners declining offers. A spokesman for North Norfolk District Council said there are now no more offers or negotiations outstanding. The conclusion of the deal means the council is handing over just over �726,000 to help the at-risk householders from the �3m pot of national pathfinder cash.

A spokesman from North Norfolk District Council said following demolition and clearance of the homes, which is expected to happen in the summer, the land will be incorporated into a landscaping scheme for the area which will complement a new car park. The scheme will be developed in consultation with the Happisburgh Local Liaison Group and Happisburgh Parish Council and will be paid for from pathfinder funds.

Malcolm Kerby, a leading campaigner with the Coastal Concern Action Group, said: 'The pathfinder project has been a stepping stone, but it is by no means the end, it is only part of a process of delivering a much better system of managing our coastline.'