Abandoned to the sea

Dominic Bareham CHRISTOPHER Hogg's three bedroom bungalow is one of 20 homes which will become uninhabitable in five years - because pleas to bolster sea defences have been dismissed.

Dominic Bareham

CHRISTOPHER Hogg's three bedroom bungalow is one of 20 homes which will become uninhabitable in five years - because pleas to bolster sea defences have been dismissed.

This week, villagers living near the coastline of Scratby were devastated to learn a study to look into saving the cliffs - and ultimately their homes - has been scrapped on the orders of the Environment Agency.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council had agreed to pay £60,000 towards a study to extend a rock berm to protect properties close to the beach endangered by coastal erosion, but now the Agency has told councillors the £2.8m project would be a “non-starter” for funding in the short term.

Mr Hogg said: “I am absolutely disgusted. I don't think there is any doubt about it. What annoys me is that we have been asking the council since 2005 to look into it and they have delayed.

“I have ploughed my life savings into this home and I have got nowhere to go.”

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He said he would have to leave his bungalow once the sea reached the bottom of the cliff because sewers would become blocked and he believes the property he shares with wife Letitia was only two tidal surges away from becoming uninhabitable.

The couple bought the £149,000 home on The Promenade in 2002 because Mrs Hogg suffers mobility problems and struggles to climb stairs.

Mr Hogg added: “Long term for the village as a whole it is a disaster, but for us living on the front, particularly for the eight properties here, it is an absolute disaster.”

Angry members of Scratby Coastal Erosion Group have responded with four demands after a heated meeting on Wednesday (February 6).

They are insisting on the extension of the rock berm to protect the coastline from California to Newport; change of the status of Scratby's sea defences in the second draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) from “no active intervention” to “hold the line”, whereby repairs would be carried out to existing flood defences; a social justice element to compensate homeowners at the full pre-blight market price for the loss of properties; and discussions on a managed retreat.

John Bristo, who attended the meeting, is another under threat of losing his home on The Promenade and said the group had called on the borough council to revert back to the “hold the line” status of the 1995 SMP, so there was enough time to mitigate the worst effects of erosion.

He said: “We are still going to pursue the extension of the rock berm because at this moment the scheme has not been drawn up. We have been working on this now for three years and to say we are disappointed at the latest news is an understatement.

“We are disappointed that to actually consider the scheme you need to draw it up, but no money has been spent.”

Phil Marshall, who lives in nearby California Avenue, summed up a sense of betrayal among local residents at the council's decision not to progress with the study even though they knew the chance of any rescue scheme being approved was slim, especially as the SMP proposed no active intervention.

He said: “To now turn around and renege on the commitment to at least undertake the study is an absolute betrayal to the local residents.”

The study, costing £88,000 in total, would have looked into the consequences of extending the rock berm 100 yards. The study would then have been submitted to the agency for funding.

But Tim Howard, head of the council's regeneration and environment department, said the council did not want to stump up the cash if there was no chance of an end result.

He said: “The council had approved funds for the project of defending the beach at Scratby but they have been told by the Environment Agency they won't get the go-ahead, so they have now withdrawn the funding.”

It is thought the council's £88,000 will remain in the pot for a possible future use for some sort of project in Scratby.

But Steve Hayman, the Agency's postal manager, confirmed he advised the council at the meeting on Wednesday, January 30, that the scheme would be a non-starter in terms of funding because it would not qualify for funding over the next five years. After that period the erosion situation would have changed, so new plans would be needed.

He said each project was evaluated in terms of whether the likely benefits would outweigh the financial costs involved and although the benefits of the Scratby plans were superior, the scheme was not considered a priority for funding.

“Nationally, there are far more demands for funding than there are resources available so there is a prioritisation approach,” Mr Hayman concluded.

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