One step forward for Hemsby's much-needed sea defence

soft sandy cliffs at erosion hot-spot Hemsby

The cliffs at Hemsby. The green netting marks the edge of the road running to The Marrams. - Credit: Liz Coates

Residents of a Norfolk coastal village say they are pleased steps are being taken for a much-needed sea defence but that more needs to be done.

Work to protect Hemsby's beach has taken an important step forward as Great Yarmouth Borough Council has lodged an application with the Marine Management Organisation for permission to carry out works on a rock berm.

Shocking drone pictures show erosion along Norfolk coast February 2022

The beach at Hemsby where a rock berm is planned in February 2022. - Credit: Oliv3r Drone Photography

The proposed rock berm will be built along a stretch of the beach to help slow down the rate of erosion and the work is estimated to cost between £5m and £11m depending on the design chosen.

As part of the process the council have also launched a consultation under the Coast Protection Act.

Hemsby Lifeboat coxswain, Dan Hurd, front, by the work to remove the two day old RNLI tower which w

Hemsby Lifeboat helmsman, Chris Batten, right, with coxswain, Dan Hurd, crewmember John Hayden, retired fisherman Kenny Chaney and resident Peter Howlett in April 2022. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Chris Batten, helmsman for Hemsby Independent Lifeboat, said the lifeboat station welcomes any step forward but feels more could be done.

"It continues to be our biggest concern," Mr Batten said. "And the uncertainty in knowing what's going to happen has restricted the village's development.

"Everything has a knock-on effect. And the extreme for us is that without a sea defence our capabilities as a lifeboat could be reduced."

"We definitely welcome the news, but we question whether it is enough."

James Bensly highlights coastal erosion issue in Hemsby

Borough and county councillor James Bensly feels legislation to protect coastal communities across the country need to be sped up. - Credit: Liz Coates

James Bensly, borough and county council for Hemsby, said while the application is "amazing news", there is "still a long way to go".

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"We're dealing with old legislation and we have to engage with all authorities and statutory figures," Mr Bensly said.

"I don't mean to be alarmist, but unless legislation is changed at a national level, we could well have environmental refugees on our doorstep. 

"This application is a small step, but it is a positive step."

Mr Bensly said once the application has been approved, conversations over funding the project can begin.

Call for sea defences for Hemsby

Hemsby is frustrated over the time being taken to bring in a rock berm which has been over ten years in the making. - Credit: Liz Coates

"The rock berm is not going be a solution, but it will slow down the rate of erosion and hopefully safeguard our beach for generations to come," Mr Bensly said.

"But I truly believe the legislation has to be sped up. And this is not just a Hemsby issue - this is UK-wide."

Mr Bensly said Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has been positive in his approach to raising awareness about Hemsby, but more enthusiasm is needed in parliament to help coastal communities.

Coastal Partnership East

The work is being led by Coastal Partnership East (CPE), which brings together coastal management expertise across Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk, and East Suffolk district councils. Alongside the technical applications, CPE is exploring potential sources of funding for the work.

Karen Thomas, head of CPE, said: "Obtaining this licence is critically important for the project. It is an important part of the licences needed to build a defence but also offers confidence to any potential funder of the works that we are moving a step closer to being ready to deliver."

Borough council environment committee chairman Paul Wells said: "The council remains absolutely committed to supporting these efforts to secure further protection for Hemsby, and this is another step forward in that process."

Details of the plans can be found on the borough council and Marine Management Organisation (MMO) websites, and members of the public have until September 2 to lodge any objections with the council, the Secretary of State, or the MMO.