Precariously perched clifftop properties facing demolition
- Credit: Mick Howes
Four properties on a cliff edge look set to be demolished due to "unprecedented rates" of coastal erosion, a council has confirmed.
With erosion having "accelerated" and happening much faster than experts had predicted, four owners of clifftop chalets have been informed that "demolition is advisable" as their properties "are now at the cliff edge" in Pakefield, Lowestoft.
East Suffolk Council said that as Pakefield has been subject to "unprecedented rates of coastal erosion" since 2019, recent storms have caused further "significant damage".
With the clifftop chalets seaward of Arbor Lane in Pakefield, the council has been liaising with the owners of the properties over the potential risks since concerns were raised during the winter of 2019/2020.
An East Suffolk Council spokesman said: "Since 2019, Pakefield has been subject to unprecedented rates of coastal erosion and Coastal Partnership East, the coastal management team for East Suffolk Council, has been working with community members to identify what long-term options were possible to reduce the risk of erosion here.
“During the winter of 2019/2020 there were concerns that more extreme periods of winter weather predicted at that time might result in enough loss of cliff to put properties seaward of the access road in Arbor Lane at significant risk.
"It was at this point that property owners were initially approached and the potential risk explained.
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"Despite less harsh winters that year and the following, the risk remained."
With Coastal Partnership East working closely with the Pakefield Coast Protection Steering Group, in September last year further temporary protection works were carried out as concrete slabs that had fallen from the cliffs at the Rifle Range were re-purposed "to help reduce the risk of erosion to the toe of the cliff."
Since then, erosion of the cliffs at the southern end of the coastline has led to the caravan park losing some concrete bases with some static vans moved.
This has also left four clifftop properties at risk. The council spokesman added: "Emergency measures were put in place to buy some time.
"However, the recent period of extreme weather brought by Storms Arwen and Barra caused significant damage to the cliffs in front of four properties seaward of Arbor Lane.
“This latest period of cliff erosion has meant that those properties are now at the cliff edge and demolition is advisable."
The council's building control team is "working closely with the property owners" with advice and support to ensure that they have access to information and grants to help them with the costs of demolition.
It is unknown when demolition work will begin, but this "will be organised by individual property owners," according to the council.
Peter Byatt, leader of the Labour group at East Suffolk Council, lives not far away from the cliff edge and is a member of the Pakefield Coast Protection Steering Group.
He said: "I have been involved for some time and have followed the issue of erosion closely.
"Residents have attended the group meetings, so have been able to share their concerns and to hear the possible options to address local erosion."
With one of the properties believed to be The Rosary holiday cottage, Cllr Byatt said: "I understand that the owners of The Rosary have already vacated the property.
"I will be contacting other residents next week, as the speed of the recommendation to vacate their properties."
He added that two caravans previously sited next to ‘The Rosary’ had been moved onto the caravan park.
Cllr Byatt said: "The sandy nature of the cliffs south of Arbor Lane makes them vulnerable to rainfall from above and tidal erosion from the base of the cliffs.
"Erosion has been much quicker than anticipated and exacerbated by higher tides and strong winds.
"Our ward team are saddened at the loss of ‘The Rosary’ and the very real threat to the other properties on the clifftop.
"We want all options to be explored to prevent further erosion, but do understand that any preventative measures will bear a cost.
"Nothing has been decided yet, and our team want every option to be explored."