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Residents’ homes under threat from the ravages of the sea

PUBLISHED: 10:32 14 May 2010

Residents are afraid their homes will be lost to the sea if repairs are not made to the sea defences in Thorpeness after recent erosion; MyPhotos24 Ref - SP 010 Thorpe Erosion 14

Residents are afraid their homes will be lost to the sea if repairs are not made to the sea defences in Thorpeness after recent erosion; MyPhotos24 Ref - SP 010 Thorpe Erosion 14

Archant

CONCERNED residents have urged coastal bosses to step in and save their homes from the ravages of the North Sea.

In the last two weeks large sections of the cliff behind properties in North End Avenue, Thorpeness, near Aldeburgh, have been washed away.

What was once a gentle shingle slope leading down to the beach has been replaced by a sheer drop of between 18 and 20ft.

The gabions – nets filled with rocks secured to the cliff face to help reduce the impact of coastal erosion – have also been exposed.

Bosses at Suffolk Coastal District Council have now stepped in and will be taking urgent action in a bid to prevent further losses to the cliff.

A total of seven homes are at risk – including that of Shelley and Mick Cowlin.

The couple have lived at their property for more than 30 years and are gravely concerned about the situation.

“The tide has been extremely high recently,” Mrs Cowlin said. “We could walk down to the beach before but now there is a drop. It has changed completely.

“It’s very frightening. We just want something to be done before it is too late. It won’t take too much longer before it has disappeared completely.”

Mrs Cowlin’s neighbours, John Green and his wife Sheila, who have had their property for nearly 20 years, are just as concerned about the recent developments.

“It has been quite dramatic,” Mr Green said. “You used to be able to walk down the steps from the garden and there was a gentle curve – now that has disappeared entirely.”

Mrs Green said she thought the changes had been caused by dredging out to sea, which has made the coastline more vulnerable to erosion.

“It’s not like we have had a terrible storm or anything like that,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. The sea bed has been interfered with. That, combined with high tides, has done it. It’s never been like this before.”

Their fears were expressed just days after former MP John Gummer warned communities may have to fund their own sea defences in the future because of the pressures of the financial crisis.

Last night a spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said they would be taking urgent action early next week to put in place more wire baskets which should prevent any further erosion.

“The stretch of beach at Thorpeness has a network of what are basically wire baskets filled with rock to help coastal protection,” he said. “The stormy weather of two weekends ago removed about 4ft of sand from above these baskets and exposed them for the first time in anyone’s memory.

“The continuing northerly winds have led to another foot of the sand being removed and also meant that about 20ft of cliffs on the Aldeburgh side of the baskets was also lost.”

Mark Russell, director of the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association, which is responsible for dredging, said there were areas off the Suffolk coast where such activity was allowed.

However, he said the industry was governed by a strict set of regulations and if it was thought that it could lead to coastal erosion then it would not be permitted.

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