A popular Norfolk beach could be closed to the public for decades as erosion threatens houses and businesses on its coastline.
The beach at Hemsby, seven miles north of Great Yarmouth, was closed at the weekend by the local volunteer lifeboat crew after losing 10ft (3m) of land in just two days. The sea has been claiming land and homes from the village for several years but a further two bungalows are now at risk and the lifeboat cannot launch because a 9ft sheer drop has emerged on the beach.
Daniel Hurd, coxswain of Hemsby Lifeboat, told the PA news agency he was furious the “horrendous” situation was continuing with no end in sight.
He said: “It has been horrendous. We knew we were going to get some washed away this year but now the beach is going to have to stay shut permanently.
“Unless the authorities get the ball rolling, we’re probably looking at another 20 years before the beach opens.”
“We get nothing”
Daniel said the beach had been so badly affected by erosion that concrete debris from Second World War invasion defences had resurfaced. He added: “We’ve all got families, we’re all volunteers, none of us get paid, but every time something happens down here it seems to be the lifeboat crew at the head of it.
“We get no-one down here to check or give us some sort of support. We get nothing.
“It was us putting the calls in to try and get temporary accommodation for people if they lose their property. It was us ringing power networks to get power lines taken down and removed from the properties at risk.”
What has caused the damage?
Chris Batten, the crew’s secretary and helmsman, said the damage was caused by the cumulative effects of multiple high tides and strong winds, rather than an especially strong storm surge.
He said: “There are two specific properties that are at greatest risk. One of the families has already evacuated and the other is still there.
“The crew were all on stand-by last night and we were down the station doing patrols of the area every 30 minutes to make sure the residents were safe and well.”
Calls for government help
Keith Kyriacou, 57, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council, urged the Government to step in to help the village survive.
He told PA: “The beach is in a terrible state. It is in a bad way. We’re just so desperate for the Government to help us out here.
“We’re losing our beach and our beach is our main income in the summer with the tourists and holidaymakers – 85% of our income is from tourists and we just want the Government to help us, but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast.”
Keith, who runs a leisure business and a car workshop, added: “The lifeboat crew down there are working so hard to protect everything. You can’t fault them. But there’s not much we can do.
“We are fighting a losing battle at the moment.”
“I want my little girl to enjoy our coastal resorts”
James Bensly, who runs the Hemsby Beach Cafe on the seafront, told PA that walkers who got onto the beach elsewhere were at risk of being trapped by the tide if they tried to exit where the sheer drop is.
The Conservative Norfolk county councillor, 44, added it was a big concern the town’s lucrative summer tourist trade could dry up – especially because he has closed the cafe for the winter due to the high price of electricity.
“Tourism and agriculture is all we have out here,” he said. “I want my little girl and I want her friends and their families to enjoy our coastal resorts.
“I want them to be able to have the memories that I had of the beach. The beach is forever changing, it’s evolving and it’s a living thing. But we have to try and protect it and live with it.
“We’re never going to stop coastal erosion. But what we can do is slow down the rate of erosion at coastal resorts and give people who are living here opportunities to try and get out of this trap that they find themselves in through no fault of their own.”