Residents in coastal villages fear storms could send their homes into the sea

A campaigner in a village with dozens of homes at risk said the plight has battered residents’ mental health.

Ian Brennan, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline, said more than 90 may topple into the North Sea over the next 25 years if nothing is done.

The charity was formed 10 years ago when several homes were lost to a storm surge.

He said locals “are very nervous”. He added: “Every time there is a storm those who live within sight and sound of the sea fear it will be the one. It takes a huge toll.”

Mr Brennan, 63, said 1.1 miles of the Norfolk coast is under threat. The group is calling for rock berm sea walls to be built.

He added: “Essentially, all we really have is a large sandcastle protecting us. It’s sand that’s blown up, captured by the marram grass.

“There used to be three rows of marrams and now you’re down to the very last one, and then you’re into the village proper.”

He said the initial cheapest berm defence was costed at £5million. Mr Brennan added: “My biggest fear is we’re going to reach a point where the powers that be say, ‘You’ve got planning permission, go for it if you can raise the money’ and we’re then asking for £30million or something to do a medium-sized berm that isn’t really going to be what we need.

“We’re not doing it because we believe it’s going to make Hemsby permanently safe. But it will buy time to allow people to adapt.

“Lots of people say ‘Why are you bothering…you can’t stop the sea’. But adaptation is possible and it’s about spending and political will.”

Lucy Ansbro said she had spent £500,000 protecting her home in Thorpeness, Suffolk from erosion.

The 54-year-old TV producer said a nearby £2million mansion was razed in October as it was unsafe.

She said: “Surveys and solicitors’ checks don’t include erosion but I was aware there was a threat of erosion when I bought this house in 2009.

“However, I never dreamed it would be this severe. No research I did suggested it would happen this quickly.

“The worst-case scenario predicted losing five metres to the sea within 50 years…I lost five metres in 2020 alone.”

She added: “Communities are at serious risk.”