Village’s beach scoured away by storms leads to fears over homes
PUBLISHED: 13:10 11 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 11 March 2018
Archant © 2018
Nearly four years ago Hemsby hit the headlines after scouring of its beach led to the village’s lifeboat station being abandoned and people fearing for their homes.
And in a double blow for the village seven homes then toppled onto the beach following a devastating tidal surge nine months later.
Now following the impact of the Beast from the East weather conditions some homeowners are living in fear of seeing their seafront homes topple onto the severely eroded beach below thanks to the latest round of scouring.
The village has had several feet of sand eroded away, with numerous homeowners losing chunks of their seafront gardens at the Marrams.
Such was the damage that the Hemsby Lifeboat was unable to launch.
Coxswain, Dan Hurd, estimated that the damage was more severe than in 2013.
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He said: “About 12 foot has been taken. I’d say this is worse than the surge we had in 2013, it has taken a lot more away.
“I can’t believe there is no solid sea wall put through there. We’re losing more and more each year.
“Further to the north there is a big hole in the sand and if it keeps creeping in there then before you know it it will be in to the valley, which could then potentially compromise towards Winterton.”
A significant amount of debris was also washed up and exposed by the weather.
Much of the beached materials are residue from the Second World War, including scaffold poles and tank traps, and Mr Hurd described the state of the beach as “a complete mess”.
Following the devastation in 2013, community-led sea defence group Save Hemsby Coastline was formed.
The group raised more than £100k through fundraisers, including a nude calendar and donations from Hemsby Parish Council and Norfolk County Council.
The money was spent on a trial defence scheme spanning approximately 110m and comprised of stacked hexagonal concrete blocks.
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The fence was designed by Mike Gibbs from engineering company Seacrete and is much cheaper than installing barriers made from rock-filled cages, known as gabions.
Ian Brennan, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline, said the question is whether the village is worth saving.
He said: “We believe that the trial we’ve done is successful enough that it should be rolled out across the beach, but to do that we need another £2m.
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“The environment agency and Great Yarmouth Borough Council need to decide that Hemsby is worth saving.
“The most frustrating thing of all is that in 2013 we saw houses on their side. It’s now 2018 and that could still happen again tomorrow. If we do nothing it will happen again.”
Great Yarmouth Borough Council has been actively involved in the development and facilitation of the trial defence scheme and is launching a community-led study into how best to defend the coast.
In a statement the council said: “Over a number of years, the council’s coastal engineer has liaised very closely with other agencies and the Hemsby community, including the Save Hemsby Coastline Action Group, providing expert advice and guidance to support the community-led trial defence scheme.
“Looking ahead, the council has been working with the Hemsby community to prepare a study to develop future options for how to manage the coastline between Winterton-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth.
“The study will start later this year, and the council plans to take a phased approach, with Hemsby being one of the first phases. The study will be community-led, with communities playing a key role in helping to develop and identify options for how to manage the coastline into the future.
“The study will come up with options that could be taken forward and considered for approval and support from statutory agencies, including Natural England and the Environment Agency.”
“At Hemsby, the existing trial defence scheme will be considered as one of the options, and the learning so far from this will play an important part in the study.”
A resident in The Marrams, who did not want to be named, said they had lost a sizeable portion of their garden during the stormy weather.
They said: “I bought the house in my husband’s memory. He passed away and left me the money and I always wanted to retire to the seaside. When we saw the bungalow my kids all said it’s just what Dad would have wanted.
“We knew there was the bad surge in 2013 but we listened to the estate agents who said it wouldn’t happen again for 60 years.
“I’m sort of cocooned because I’ve got sand dunes around me.
“When I think about how much has gone I struggle to sleep because I’m thinking what if it goes in the middle of the night when I’m in bed?
“I’m looking at things and thinking I want to pack it all back up because I don’t want to lose the memories I’ve got here.”