Demolition of five homes on erosion-hit coastline begins
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Demolition work has begun on five clifftop homes in a village hit by coastal erosion.
Workers knocked down the first of the homes in Hemsby, Norfolk, on Saturday morning.
It comes after high tides and strong winds caused the collapse of a stretch of a private access road last month.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council said a number of properties in The Marrams in Hemsby were subsequently inspected and a decision was taken to demolish five.
The authority said this decision, taken with the owners’ permission, was because the homes were “not structurally sound and are unsafe”.
The council said a demolition company had been contracted to carry out the work, which will last for at least four days, as tides mean it can only be carried out for a limited number of hours each day.
Wrecking machines are on the beach to carry out demolitions due to the loss of the access road, and material is being taken off the beach by tipper truck.
Simon Measures, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline, who lives further up the coastline from the five houses affected, said the feeling locally has been fluctuating “from extreme sadness to extreme anger”.
He said: “It’s a day-to-day strain. I, along with everybody else, we live on weather reports.
“If someone tells us there’s going to be high winds we really panic.”
Mr Measures said the community is “close knit” and that on Friday someone posted online that one of those affected by the demolitions needed help moving out and 40 people turned up.
In the week since they were told about the demolitions, there has been “talking, crying and shouting” locally, he added.
“We feel like we’re being picked off one by one,” Mr Measures said. “Our life savings are in these buildings.”
Mr Measures is calling for sea defences to be built which he said would protect 1.3km and dozens of homes – at a cost of £20 million.
Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, previously said: “While we have known for some considerable time that more properties were at risk from erosion, this remains an extremely difficult time for those people who are losing their homes.
“Our thoughts are with those affected and our staff have been working hard to provide support and welfare for those who need it.
“Unfortunately, continued erosion on this stretch of coastline is inevitable and we are working hard with our partners and other agencies to work out how we best adapt to the changing shape of our coast in the coming years.”
The council said demolition would be a “complex task” and access in the area will be limited, with members of the public urged to stay away from the beach for safety reasons.
The access road remains closed, as does a footpath in the area.
The council said officers have been working closely with residents to offer support and housing options, and staff have been sourcing appropriate accommodation for those who need it.
While demolition work is taking place, work will also be carried out to create access to remove a small number of vehicles and a caravan which were left behind when part of the access road was lost.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Government flood defence grant-in-aid is available to Great Yarmouth Borough Council, as the risk management authority, to fund or part-fund flood and coast erosion risk management schemes.
“To apply for funding, risk management authorities need to submit a business case to the Environment Agency showing how the project will work, that it will last, that it is able to be delivered and is environmentally acceptable.”