Coastal Town Battles Rising Erosion Threat

The coastal town of Hemsby is desperately seeking to shore up its erosion defences, three months after a tidal surge washed a number of houses into the sea.

Five patches of golden sand now break up the marram grass on the sand dunes in Hemsby where the houses once stood.

Angela and Tony Lewis’s house, once set far back from the beach, now has a clear view of the horizon.

“You look at the sea view we never had and you think that view, lovely as it is, that is the view that is going to take our house away,” said Mrs Lewis.

“We go to bed at night dreading there might be another storm and we dread what this winter is going to bring … After this winter we don’t know if we are going to have any houses left.”

Even before the tidal surge of December 5, 2013, the quiet Norfolk resort had been fundraising for defences.

They had already put in place gabions – metal cages full of rocks – and vast bags of concrete at the base of the dunes. They think they helped, even though it is thought the dunes retreated 30 metres in places that night.

Many more defences have been added since, after fundraising reached 35,000.

But now the campaign group Save Hemsby Coastline is applying for much bigger sums of money from various grants, including lottery cash from the Coastal Communities Fund, in the hope of being able to afford a more sturdy and permanent solution.

Lorna Bevan-Thompson, landlady of the local pub and founder of the campaign, said: “We are trying to raise a good few million pounds to put in a preservation and protection scheme here.

“We want to make sure we can protect the remaining sand dunes we’ve got. This is our only barrier to the seas. If we don’t protect them now, homes will be lost, businesses will be lost and we desperately need to protect what we have got left.”

It is estimated that defences can cost as much as 10,000 per metre.

Dr Alastair Grant, professor of ecology at the University of East Anglia, says the costs have to be weighed up.

“The sea is incredibly powerful. If you have enough resources you can build sea defences that will stay where they are but that is incredibly expensive and the decision needs to be made about the relative costs and benefits of defending a piece of coastline.”

Tourism in the village, just north of Great Yarmouth, is said to make 80m a year.

But there is more than just business at stake and for the people whose lives revolve around Hemsby, giving into the sea is not an option.

17 May 2014 | 2:13 am – Source:

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