Homeowners losing their properties due to coastal erosion claim they have been 'abandoned' by the government

Hemsby beach seen from above and showing a house falling into the cliff below
Almost 100 homeowners in Hemsby are at risk of being made homeless due to coastal erosion destroying their homes (Image credit: Google Earth)

Residents claim they have been "abandoned" by the government as their homes are doomed due to coastal erosion.

Homeowners in Hemsby, Norfolk, face having their properties destroyed due to rapid coastal erosion, which is threatening nearly 100 homes.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council announced plans to slow down the erosion have had to be scrapped due to government funding being withdrawn, resulting in a furious backlash from locals who are running out of options to save their coastal houses.

What is coastal erosion?

Coastal erosion refers to the gradual wearing away or loss of land and property along coastlines due to natural processes such as wave action, tidal forces, and weather conditions. 

It occurs when the land adjacent to the coast or shoreline diminishes or is swept away, leading to a reduction in the distance between the houses or properties and the sea. 

As the land erodes houses situated along these coastal areas are at risk of damage or loss due to the encroaching sea, as seen in Hemsby, which can threaten their stability and, in severe cases, lead to their collapse or submersion.

A home in Hemsby falling over a cliff onto the beach due to coastal erosion

Many previous homes in Hemsby have been destroyed due to coastal erosion with over 60 homes being lost (Image credit: Getty Images)

How bad is the damage in Hemsby?

Hemsby has been struggling with coastal erosion for quite some time with coastal erosion hitting the village at a faster rate than to most other coastal areas.

The village has lost about 70 meters of coastline in the last 50 years. But the erosion has become even more severe in recent years, with storm surges and high tides causing rapid damage.

This has led to homeowners being forced to evacuate their homes and forced them to be demolished with the village seeing 60 homes lost since 1991.

This year alone has seen five homes having to be dismantled due to the coastal erosion and around 100 more are at risk of being destroyed by 2025.

Village 'not eligible' for vital Flood Defence Grant

In March, Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) announced plans to slow down the erosion of the coast by placing rocks alongside the cliffside and at the most vulnerable points on Hemsby Beach.

The council’s coastal management team, Coastal Partnership East (CPE) organised 2,000 tonnes of rocks to be installed on the beach.

However, on October 19, GYBC, Coastal Partnership East (the council’s coastal management team), Great Yarmouth MP Sir Brandon Lewis, and Norfolk County Council put out a joint statement announcing plans to install further rock defences against the erosion would not go ahead as the village was not eligible for funding.

The statement read: ‘’The primary source of funding for the proposed work would be via a Flood Defence Grant-in-Aid (FDGIA) from the government and the amount of funding available depends on the number of assets (homes) that would benefit from a reduced risk of erosion once the scheme is completed."

The FDGIA was said to only be suitable for areas where hundreds of homes were at risk, meaning Hemsby was not deemed large enough to qualify.

The statement added: “GYBC, Norfolk County Council and Sir Brandon have proactively lobbied over a number of years to argue the case for Hemsby - including meeting the Environment Agency recently.

“It is also the case that the proposed scheme for Hemsby would only serve to slow down erosion in the area, it would not stop it entirely.

“The proposed scheme, as it stands, would also most likely have a significant impact on the beach because much of the remaining beach would be covered by rock after the work was carried out.”

The council concluded that the destruction of homes is now "inevitable" and that they are "actively engaging" with residents in endangered properties "to understand what support they will need to the risk of further erosion".

Residents feel 'abandoned' by the government

Residents in Hemsby claim they have been left to their own devices and "abandoned" by the government and their local council.

Ian Brennan, 63, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline group, has been campaigning for 10 years to prompt government intervention to help save the houses in danger of the eroding coastline. He said: "I know the borough council and our MP Brandon Lewis are saying that we haven't been abandoned, but, actually, that's how we feel.

"Hemsby is suffering. Seeing what has happened and knowing if nothing is done it is going to happen to you must be a terrifying prospect.

"The authorities know what needs to be done and it’s only political will and the inaction of the landowners and the absence of funding that makes their loss pretty inevitable.

"The last study showed that 92 homes are at risk if nothing is done. How much does Hemsby need to bleed before something is done?"

A home on the beach installing its own defences against coastal erosion with a metal sheet and small barricade against the cliff edge

Many homes have been left exposed over the cliff edge on Hemsby Beach and have been left with no protections against the inevitable coastal erosion (Image credit: Google Earth)

Homeowners in houses at risk of being destroyed have also found their house prices to be drastically low and have found little to no chance of insuring their properties.

Lorna Bevan, who founded the Save Hemsby Coastline organisation, said the councils announcement was "utterly disrespectful" to the people now living dangerously close to the cliffs.

The Save Hemsby Coastline campaign has set up a GoFundMe page to help put up a legal challenge against the decision not to fund coastal defences.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.