Homeowners on eroded coastline demand improved sea defences

A homeowner whose house is just metres from falling into the sea said she feels “totally abandoned” by the authorities, as councillors pledged to lobby the Government for more funding.

Deborah Hawksley, 61, has a holiday chalet on Green Lane, Skipsea, where residents have been told their homes are among 24 on the East Yorkshire coast that will be lost to coastal erosion within the next five years.

Ms Hawksley, whose family have owned a property on the cliff top since 1934, said the thought of losing her “slice of paradise” is “utterly devastating”, and she urged the Government to fund more sea defences.

The former professional opera singer attended a council meeting in Beverley on Wednesday morning, where councillors discussed a recent report that found areas of the Holderness Coast were eroding at a rate of more than one metre each month.

Richard Jackson, principal sustainable development officer at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, told the meeting the council is continuing to work with communities where defences are not sustainable.

He said the council had “limited” financial support to help residents cover the cost of demolishing their properties – which can cost between £15,000 and £40,000 – but they are continuing to ask the Government for funding.

David Elvidge, who chaired the meeting, said: “The sub-committee supports the council’s decision to lobby Government for a dedicated ongoing fund.

“The sub-committee recognises the excellent work being done to support residents and businesses at risk of coastal erosion and we ask the Government to recognise the role of local authorities delivering support to local residents and businesses around coastal erosion.”

Coastal erosion
Houses at risk of collapse due to coastal erosion in Skipsea, east Yorkshire (Owen Humphreys/PA)

But Ms Hawksley said she has had no contact with the council and would rather the Government funds more sea defences.

She said: “It seems like we are totally abandoned, like they have no thought or compassion for our situation, for the fact that we are losing our homes.

“I can’t describe how devastating it is – it’s utterly devastating because for me, and I imagine many people who live along here, this is paradise.

“How many people have the opportunity to look from their own property, straight out to that. It’s totally devastating to lose it.

“There are times when the sea is literally hitting this cliff, coming halfway up and then a wall of sea cascading right up into the sky and then you realise that it’s just a matter of metres from your home.

ENVIRONMENT Erosion
(PA Graphics)

“And there’s nothing that you can do and there is nothing that you are offered to help to slow this down. It’s going to happen, I know it’s going to happen, but it’s happening very quickly.

“I believe when it reaches 9.2 metres they will serve notice on us to evict us. Once this has gone then we lose our little slice of paradise.”

Ms Hawksley said she and her family would cover the cost of demolishing their home, but added: “What a terrible way to have to spend your money.”

The report presented to the council’s Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee found the coastline is eroding at a rate of between 0.5m and 4m each year, but some areas recorded losses in six months that were nearly double the annual rate.

Deborah Hawksley
Deborah Hawksley, 61, said she feels the authorities have ‘abandoned’ homeowners in the area (Amy Murphy/PA)

It predicts this erosion, which is likely to increase in future due to climate change, will put 24 homes in Skipsea at risk by 2025.

But it says a “single erosion event” could put a large number of properties at imminent risk within the next year, and more than 200 residential properties will be lost within the next 100 years.

Government decisions have been not to defend much of the sparsely populated coastline, with coastal defences not economically, socially or environmentally sustainable for large stretches of the coast.

Councillor Paul Bell told the meeting it is a “very emotive subject” for people who have invested in properties and thought they would live in them for the rest of their lives.

Coastal erosion
The coastline is now just a few metres from these houses in Skipsea (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He said: “The bottom line is they don’t want to move.”

Ms Hawksley said her family’s first property was lost to the sea in 1986 and they built their new home on its current plot.

She said: “My heart is here.

“The Government is going to have to do something about the erosion on the east coast otherwise we’re going to lose vast swathes of the United Kingdom.”

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