Council approves protective rock berm at Hemsby

The sea.

Hemsby has been enduring coastal erosion for decades - Credit: James Weeds

Plans for a new rock berm to protect the coast at Hemsby have won unanimous approval from councillors - but its construction will depend on whether enough funding can be found.

The village has been enduring coastal erosion for decades - but the Beast from the East in 2018 created such powerful storm surges that 13 chalets were torn from the cliffside.

Three different options for the berm's design are being considered and a cost-benefit analysis of each has been carried out. The selected design will depend on how much money can be raised to pay for its cost of up to £9m. 

Great Yarmouth Borough Council's (GYBC) planning committee gave their support to the scheme in principle at a meeting on Wednesday (April 13).

Final sign-off for the project will depend upon no objections being raised by the Environment Agency, Natural England and the county council's natural environment team.

Conservative councillor Paul Hammond asked what guarantee there was that the berm would work, to which a planning officer responded that a comparison could be made with a berm down the coast at California, near Caister, which had been successfully doing its job for 20 years. 

Coastal adaptation officer Anne Casey emphasised that the new berm would not stop the erosion entirely but would slow it down.

Independent councillor Adrian Myers and Labour's Tony Wright both asked what would happen if the money for the project was not found within the permission's three-year validity.

Tony Wright speaking at the unveiling of a blue plaque to mark the 30th anniversary of Crimestoppers

Labour councillor and former Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

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Mr Wright said the council was faced with a "chicken and egg" problem of whether permission or funding was needed first. 

But the council's monitoring officer warned both members that the financial side could not be discussed because it was not a relevant planning consideration.

The approved plans include a timber ramp at Hemsby Gap to ensure visitors can access the beach and Hemsby Lifeboat can access the sea for offshore rescues.

Commenting after the decision, Conservative council leader Carl Smith said he was “delighted” by the permission in principle but warned the authority was “not there yet”.

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Councillor Carl Smith leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council - Credit: Archant

“Our next steps are to build on the work we are doing with the community, landowners and government to find the money needed to build it, and Coastal Partnership East, our coastal management team, are working hard on this."

Once funded, construction is expected to take 30 weeks.