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‘It might bring hope’ - 19 options put forward to save erosion-scarred Hemsby

PUBLISHED: 13:08 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 17 July 2018

Anglian Demolition from Attleborough, clear the debris falling into the beach under the clifftop homes at risk of falling at Hemsby. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Anglian Demolition from Attleborough, clear the debris falling into the beach under the clifftop homes at risk of falling at Hemsby. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Rubber tyres, a concrete wall, a timber breakwater and gabion cages are among engineering solutions being put forward to save the crumbling coastline at Hemsby.

Hemsby erosion. The Marrams.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYHemsby erosion. The Marrams. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A long-awaited dossier combing through the issues at the coastal village where 12 homes were lost and more face being washed away was published today.

It said on-going uncertainty was a feature along the stretch which was constantly changing and had been for 200 years since the dunes first sprung up.

Finding an engineering answer that would both protect the dunes and keep hold of the beach - the main draw for holidaymakers - was the main difficulty according to the report which puts forward 19 long and short term options.

Of those some were discounted and others considered unaffordable - including a bid to re-shape the channel at a cost of £50m.

Number 198 The Marrams, which the residents are trying to pull back away from the edge of the receding sand cliff. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNumber 198 The Marrams, which the residents are trying to pull back away from the edge of the receding sand cliff. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

If no funding is available the report suggests allowing further erosion until more homes are at risk and more likely to attract Government funding.

It adds that the beach could find its own way, and build back up naturally without intervention.

Gabion cages and hexagonal blocks already on trial at the toe of the dunes could work but only if they were dug much deeper.

The report, prepared by independent consultants Jacobs, was brought forward following the Beast from the East erosion streak when the stretch at The Marrams was plunged into crisis.

Its focus is on a 1,300m defence to include 400m north of Hemsby Gap and down to 50m south of Newport/Scratby.

Hemsby erosion. James and Louise Bensly, who own the Beach Cafe.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYHemsby erosion. James and Louise Bensly, who own the Beach Cafe. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

But there may be no easy solution, the authors warn, and the borough council says in its summary: “There may not be any scheme that is completely acceptable to the community and that any of them could create additional damage.”

The report highlights the dunes had never been a static feature with homes lost between the 1940s and 1980s and more between 1992 and 1997 - a situation that had accelerated in the last two decades.

Residents of the village in the forefront of the erosion battle will have their say on July 19 at a special drop-in session to be held at Hemsby Village Hall from 1.30pm to 8pm.

A presentation of the findings by coastal engineers will take place at 2pm and 5pm.

“It might bring hope”

Ian Brennan, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline, hailed the report as “a step forward”.

He said: “I think it’s a big piece of work. I think they have considered every possible option and of those there eight or nine solutions that could work for Hemsby.

“What needs to be done now is whittling those down and to understand all the implications. It is a step forward but there are a lot of other steps to get where we want to go.”

James Bensly, a borough councillor who runs the beach café at Hemsby, said the report could give vulnerable home-owners hope. “I thought the report was brilliant, really well done. We have a unique coastline and it is very challenging.

“It might bring hope, and what it will bring is the chance to have a really good conversation. My preference is for fishtail groynes because the beach is our best defence.

“There is a lot to digest and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of Thursday’s drop-in event.

“The report keeps all the options open but it is going to be a long winded process.

“Will it work? Is it environmentally acceptable? Is it affordable? That is what we have to ask.”

“All options are costly”

Carl Smith, deputy council leader, said it was now up to everyone to have their say.

He said “This technical study is really useful because it highlights how Hemsby has got to where it has over the decades, and considers a range of possible approaches.

“This report makes clear that Hemsby is complex: there is no easy solution and all options entail pros and cons. Some potential interventions for Hemsby cliffs would threaten Hemsby beach. Some options would not be effective for Hemsby.

“All options are costly and would require significant contributions from a range of partners, including a special government contribution, because relatively limited funds would be available from Defra under the current funding rules. No option could be funded solely by a small district council.

“It is now for the community as a whole, the private landowner, public bodies, local MP, government departments and other partners, to discuss these findings and explore which options can be taken forward.”

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