Tower may be demolished as sea moves in

THE owner of an historic landmark on the Suffolk coast says he may have to demolish it - after warning it could become unsafe after only one more major storm.

THE owner of an historic landmark on the Suffolk coast says he may have to demolish it - after warning it could become unsafe after only one more major storm.

John Fell-Clark, who converted Martello Tower “W” into a home in 1986, has taken the difficult decision after being told that if another two metres of land at East Lane, Bawdsey, is lost the Napoleonic-era structure would be unsafe.

If the listed tower should fall onto the beach, Mr Fell-Clark would have to foot a potentially large bill for the debris to be cleared away.

To avoid that, he is asking English Heritage for advice on applying for a demolition order while there is still enough room to fit heavy machinery in front of the tower.

You may also want to watch:

Last night, he spoke of his “anger and frustration” at the situation, which has seen him campaign tirelessly for funding for defences along the stretch of coast.

He said: “It is a matter that I need to put in place before the winter when something drastic could happen.

Most Read

“My strategy is to say that it is going to be a lot less expensive and safer to demolish it while there is enough land in front of it to get the machinery there and in controlled conditions. That's the last thing in the world I want to do.”

There is currently 10 metres of land left in front of the tower, compared to the “healthy beach” protected by annually-maintained groins in the 1980s.

Around 18,000 tonnes of rocks are due to be shipped in from Norway shortly for protection works by the Environment Agency.

However, Mr Fell-Clark said this fell short of the amount engineers said the area would need to be safeguarded back in 2002 - and since then further erosion has taken place.

He said it was then estimated that there would need to be 40,000 tonnes of rock in total for the work, including the amount already used to protect the area.

Even with the arrival of the new rocks, Mr Fell-Clark estimated there would be a shortfall of around 16,200 tonnes.

The section is split up into two parts - the lower ground is the responsibility of the Environment Agency while the cliff coast is the jurisdiction of Suffolk Coastal District Council.

Mr Fell-Clark said the East Lane Trust was already trying to raise money to help pay for the council's section of work because of a lack of funding.

But he said the Environment Agency's work only covered 300 metres from the promontory to the north, not reaching round to the south of the point - so it was looking for funds to pay for extra work there too.

Rod Hicks, project manager for the Environment Agency, said there was “never a commitment” to a larger amount of rocks than 18,000 tonnes.

He confirmed the agency's work, the first phase, would protect from the promontory to the north, a stretch of 300 metres.

He added that the work between the promontory to the Martello Tower was due to be undertaken in 2013.

Andy Smith, cabinet member for coast protection and deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “The council considers that the Martello Tower is of national importance and should not be demolished or lost to coastal erosion so we are finalising a scheme, together with the Environment Agency and the local community, of up to £1.5million to protect East Lane, Bawdsey, with work being planned for next spring.

“We will formally ask the Government if it is prepared to fund the scheme, but given that the Government has failed so far to fund the coastal defence works at Felixstowe we have also been urgently investigating alternative funding sources with representatives of the local community, with high hopes of a successful outcome.

“In the meantime, we are continuing to monitor the situation at East Lane, and are ready to take preventative or emergency action before next spring if necessary and if feasible within our resources.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter