Cliff edge Hemsby homes evacuated amid fears erosion could plunge them into sea during Storm Larisa

Terrified residents have been told to leave their homes as a storm surge threatened to undermine properties perching on a small sand cliff on the UK coast.
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Terrified residents were evacuated from their cliff-edge homes amid fears their houses could plunge into the sea during a storm surge. At least five people were told to leave their homes as 50 mph winds and a high tide of 3.7m threatened to undermine properties perching on a small sand cliff in Hemsby, Norfolk.

Coastguard workers helped fleeing residents on Thursday (March 9) and watched on as patio slabs in some of their gardens slipped into the sea. The 3,000-strong coastal village has suffered from severe coastal erosion in recent years, with a number of properties abandoned as the cliffs slip away.

Several residents moved all their belongings out of their homes last night and were taken to a village hall. Some may now need to be permanently rehomed.

Coastguards also revealed the cliff erosion had created a new 10 ft drop into the sea from the beach meaning the local lifeboat can no longer be launched. Yesterday (March 10) coastguards were out there again at 6.30am anxiously awaiting the next high tide due at 9am.

Dan Hurd, 41, is Hemsby lifeboat’s coxswain who was out last night and this morning monitoring the situation. He said: "It’s a bloody mess down there right now. If you see the sea right now you wouldn’t believe it.

"A lot of people are upset, they had to get out of their properties last night and some left their belongings - fully furnished houses, food in the cupboard, all there. One refused to leave but we managed to persuade them to go into a hotel.

"I think it’s disgusting that the government hasn’t signed off on measures that could help prevent this." Among the homes threatened is that of retired Grenadier Guardsman Lance Martin who in 2018 moved his £95k detached property back 10.5 metres from the cliff edge to stop it from toppling into the sea.

When the 65-year-old bought the house in 2017, he was told by an environmental impact study that he would have 30-40 years before the cliff edge reached his house, until the Beast from the East storm ate 30 metres from his back garden in 2018. He was evacuated on Thursday night and went to stay in Lowestoft to await the storm.

Lance Martin with his property in 2018.Lance Martin with his property in 2018.
Lance Martin with his property in 2018.

Pictures of his property show angry waves swelling around his back garden, which is now only a few metres deep. Lance’s road, The Marrams, at the edge of the cliff is now at risk of being eroded underneath by the tide.

Dan fears this road will need to be closed off permanently if the next tide eats away more sand from under the tarmac. This would mean at least seven residents at the end of that road would need to be permanently rehomed.

Their houses would be condemned according to Dan as the road was their last access point and emergency services would no longer be able to get to them. A telegraph pole also fell into the sea, disconnected two weeks ago when the last storm hit.

The Hemsby shoreline in November 2020. The Hemsby shoreline in November 2020.
The Hemsby shoreline in November 2020.

Dan added if the weather continued to erode this patch of coast the lifeboat and crew would need to permanently relocate further up the coast. Hemsby residents have been fighting to get a rock berm in place in a bid to help stop the erosion even further.

The planning permission was due to come through a year ago, but the government’s Marine Management Organisation has yet to sign off on the plans. One of those is Ian Brennan, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline.

Ian, 63, said: "We’re pleased with the Hemsby Parish Council response to open the village hall to evacuees last night - they are environmental refugees now. It’s good they have a plan and can help people at risk, but the best plan is to not be at risk in the first place and stop houses falling over the cliff edge.

"I feel very let down by Great Yarmouth Borough Council. There’s lots of talk but still no planning permission for the rock berm."