Council tells ex-soldier to stop building DIY defences to protect home from sea

A former soldier who built DIY defences to protect his clifftop home from falling into the sea has been ordered to stop by a local council.

Lance Martin, 60, lives in Hemsby, Norfolk, where around 30 metres of cliff were lost to the tides when the Beast from the East battered the coast in March.

There were 13 homes in his row, and his is the last one left.

Fearing forecast high tides and winds could eat further into the dunes, he took matters into his own hands this month without seeking permission.

“I was a naughty boy,” he said. “I went and hired a digger and moved some concrete blocks on the beach which is what the fuss was about.”

The 50 blocks, weighing up to four tonnes each, were left over from previous defences on the beach – away from cliffs.

Mr Martin, helped by friends, arranged them in a semi-circle at the foot of the cliffs by his home, with sand piled up inside, to keep the sea at bay.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council issued him with a stop notice last week.

“At the end of the day, we achieved what we wanted to achieve and I protected my property,” said Mr Martin, adding that if the council decides to take further action he is prepared to “suffer the consequences”.

He served in the Army in the Grenadier Guards from 1978 to 2000.

“I think the determination, the guts and everything – the Army has prepared me for worst case scenarios and everything,” he said.

“You’ve got to step back from it sometimes and have a look at your life and think what can I do, how can I achieve it, let’s get it done.

“And I think that’s the attitude that the Army gave me.”

He bought the home for £95,000 cash in 2017 and spent a further £70,000 on improvements after he retired from his security job in London and sold his flat in Dagenham, east London.

He said he could stand on the roof and still not see the sea when he moved in, and was told by a survey to expect one metre of dune loss per year to erosion.

“Nobody could have legislated for what happened with the Beast from the East,” he said.

Asked why he did not seek permission before building the defences, he said “time”.

He said some “really high tides and easterly winds” were forecast, and he thought “if I don’t do anything I’m going to lose more land at the back and this would be untenable, I’d have to move”.

He said he did not worry about the money he spent on his home, adding: “As long as I can live here for the rest of my time and enjoy my life and be left alone to get on with it I’m quite happy with that.”

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said officers attended on November 15 after it was reported that someone was using a mechanical digger on the beach.

They issued a Temporary Stop Notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, noting there was no record of an application seeking consent for the works.

“The notice prohibits any further excavations or engineering operations on the affected land without the prior necessary approval of the council,” the statement said.

“Whilst the council appreciates the intention of the works is coastal protection, such engineering works cannot be undertaken without consent.”