Coastal town and villages 'could become an island' within weeks due to cliff erosion

Ross McGuinness
WITHERNSEA UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 09:  Holiday chalets abandoned due to coastal erosion wait to be demolished or taken by the sea in the village of Withersea in the East Riding of Yorkshire on January 09, 2020 in Withernsea, United Kingdom. The effects of global warming and climate change creating storms and sea swells have seen the East Coast of the United Kingdom lose up to one metre of coast line each year.  Landslips and cliff falls caused by waterlogged land and sea erosion has claimed hundreds of roads, homes and holiday accommodation. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The eroded cliffs at Withernsea, East Yorkshire. (Getty Images)

A coastal town and nearby villages could become an island within weeks because of the continued erosion of a cliff, experts have warned.

It is feared a storm could destroy what remains of a cliff at Sand-le-Mere, East Yorkshire, cutting the town of Withernsea and parts of the area of Holderness off from the mainland.

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A report last year revealed that Withernsea is one of the UK locations most at risk from rising home insurance because of the ongoing erosion.

At the beginning of this year, the government was urged to help fund house demolitions to protect people living in coastal homes in the area.

WITHERNSEA, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 09:  Holiday chalets abandoned due to coastal erosion wait to be demolished or taken by the sea in the village of Withersea in the East Riding of Yorkshire on January 09, 2020 in Withernsea, United Kingdom. The effects of global warming and climate change creating storms and sea swells have seen the East Coast of the United Kingdom lose up to one metre of coast line each year.  Landslips and cliff falls caused by waterlogged land and sea erosion has claimed hundreds of roads, homes and holiday accommodation. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Abandoned holiday chalets along the eroded coast at Withernsea, East Yorkshire. (Getty Images)

The small cliff is currently a barrier between the town and surrounding villages, but there are concerns it could soon plunge into the sea.

Phil Mathison, from Withernsea's Coastal Change Observatory, told the Hull Daily Mail that if the cliff crumbles away, the North Sea could flood the Tunstall Drain gully behind it, in turn swamping low-lying land.

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Villages such as Keyingham and Patrington, as well as Withernsea, would then be cut off.

"South Holderness could then become an island," said Mathison.

"We had been aware for a while that the small cliff at Sand-le-Mere that fronts the Tunstall Drain was vulnerable, but we did not realise just how vulnerable it was.

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"If there is a storm, and the North Sea runs in there – the drain is below the level of the high tides and at least 20ft below what little is left of the boulder clay ridge that separates it from the sea – then the sea can run all the way to the Humber.

"We feel that this potential situation represents massive erosion by the back door, as most of the authorities’ attention is on things like the bungalows near the cliffs at Skipsea.

WITHERNSEA, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 09:  Holiday chalets abandoned due to coastal erosion wait to be demolished or taken by the sea in the village of Withersea in the East Riding of Yorkshire on January 09, 2020 in Withernsea, United Kingdom. The effects of global warming and climate change creating storms and sea swells have seen the East Coast of the United Kingdom lose up to one metre of coast line each year.  Landslips and cliff falls caused by waterlogged land and sea erosion has claimed hundreds of roads, homes and holiday accommodation. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
There are fears that Withernsea, East Yorkshire, will become an island if a cliff falls into the sea. (Getty Images)

"This eventuality could happen within weeks."

The Holderness coast is one of the fastest eroding in Europe, at a rate of about 2 metres each year.

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