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Fears over crumbling coast

PUBLISHED: 09:33 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 30 June 2010

It is an aerial picture that evokes the full force of the North Sea - its waves breaking against a vulnerable cliff-face.

And it is one that makes it all too clear why residents in Corton, to the south, and Hopton, to the north of this stretch of coastline between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, are increasingly anxious about the future.

It is an aerial picture that evokes the full force of the North Sea - its waves breaking against a vulnerable cliff-face.

And it is one that makes it all too clear why residents in Corton, to the south, and Hopton, to the north of this stretch of coastline between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, are increasingly anxious about the future.

Their concerns were voiced to the minister for marine and natural environment Huw Irranca-Davies when he visited the area on Monday and saw the depleted beach at Hopton and crumbling sea defences at the northern end of Corton.

And in the week it was revealed that Covehithe, south of Lowestoft, could disappear into the sea within 40 years, the sentiments in Hopton were summed up by Brian Potter, who runs the five-star Potters Leisure Resort on the clifftop.

He said: “The beach has suffered massive erosion. Steel revetments that are part of the sea defences have been exposed and when the sea rots through that, we will have nothing to protect us.

“Losing properties in the village is not something to concern my generation, but it might be a worry for my grandson Harry Potter unless he can work his magic.”

The shoreline management plan (SMP), a revised version of which will shortly be published for consultation, recommends that the concrete seawall running from Corton to Hopton will not be replaced when it crumbles within the next two decades and, under a policy of no active intervention, it predicts properties being lost within about 50 years.

However, Brian Hardisty, chairman of Hopton's coastal action group, raised the fear that such time estimates could be hopelessly wide of the mark.

“The concrete sea defences at the Corton end were supposed to last 15 to 20 years and they started failing in three years,” he said.

“That comes all the way to Hopton and that's the big worry. If nothing is done, the sea defences will fail and then it is a matter of time how many properties will be lost - five, 15, 30 - the estimates are not a science.”

The fears of villagers have been heightened by the startling rate of beach loss, which they blame on changing currents caused by the building of Yarmouth's outer harbour.

In Corton, the concerns are even more pressing, with the SMP only proposing to defend the main village until 2025 and predicting that crumbling defences after that time could mean the loss of 40 to 50 properties, including most of the infrastructure on the seaward side of The Street, by 2075.

It is believed that a revision to the SMP - consultation on which is likely to start next month - will offer no more comfort.

Corton's Waveney district councillor David Coulam said there was already a lot of concern being expressed by residents and local businessmen.

“People are looking at their property and wondering what it is going to be worth in a few years' time,” he said.


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