Advertisement

'My village is sliding into the sea and my house could be gone by Christmas'

A heartbroken mum fears her cliff-top home may fall into the sea by Christmas - after 26ft (8m) of land was swept away in just a MONTH. Nicola Bayless’s three-bed semi in Happisburgh is now less than 50ft (15m) from the cliff after storms Babet and Ciaran ravaged the Norfolk coast in the autumn. And she worries her family’s £375,000 property may be gone by the end of December as the village teeters on the edge. Nicola, 48, said: “We haven’t even got into winter, but as we’ve lost that much, we could be forced to leave in springtime or even before Christmas. It’s frightening.” Her late parents, Anita and Arthur Richmond, originally bought Beacon House in 2001 when it was over 670ft (200m) away from the cliff's edge. They knew the property, which sat among homes on Beach Road, wouldn’t be around forever as the government decided not to upgrade local sea defences. But since then, the sea has carved out huge swaths of the “cream cheese” like coastline, forcing dozens of locals to abandon their luxury properties. And Nicola, who moved into the property seven years ago, now fears her 'worthless' home could become uninhabitable in just a few months. The nurse said: “It’s heartbreaking and it’s frightening if you let it take over your mind, it can get you down mentally. “I’m not choosing to go and find somewhere new. it’s something I’m being forced to do. I would stay here forever, but I’m not going to put myself at risk. "After Babet, four metres was gone. Then it was another two meres after Ciarán. But more has gone since then. So you’re talking, in a month, seven to eight metres. “We used to have Christmas light competitions with our neighbours - how many lights you could get on your home. It looked like Las Vegas at the bottom of the road. “It makes you sad that village life is disappearing as well.” Nicola said she had holidayed in the idyllic Happisburgh area, famed for its red and white striped lighthouses, with her parents during the 1980s and 1990s. And during one of these memorable trips, they "fell in love" with Beacon House, which they went on to buy for £76,000 over 20 years ago. Mum of two Nicola said her parents gave her the home in 2016 when she started a family, while they moved into her nearby terraced home and later to a bungalow. And they had believed the property, which has a huge 50m (164ft) back garden and an annexe, would later be passed onto their grandchildred. But Nicola said the couple would be shocked if they could see the devastating loss of land that has taken place in the five years since their deaths. She said: “My parents had said ‘It will see you out, it will see your kids out.’ “On the survey, they were told they had 150 years before the cliff would meet the house. That was quite believable because of where it was. “But they’ve only been gone five years and in that time, you wouldn’t believe how much has gone. “I think they’d be very shocked if they ever returned and saw all this because it is just crazy, absolutely crazy. “It’s climate change and the weather getting worse, and things like that – that’s all I can put it down to." Nicola remembers how specific storms destroyed the coastline close to her property - and has used a tape measure to keep track of the erosion after each big swell. But recent storms Babet and Ciarán, which hit in quick succession between October 18 and November 4, brought some of the worst landslips in recent memory. She said: “We had the 'Beast From the East' back in 2012. That was pretty scary. You could actually see the sea coming up above the cliff “When we had Babet and Ciarán, it was the rain that was worse. It just tipped it down and poured away over the edge of the road. “One minute there was a foot of tarmac hanging off. The next minute, there were six feet hanging off. “About three hours later, I went down and the cliff had come away from underneath. The next day, that was all gone. It was crazy. She added: "I felt a really loud bang last Thursday night [Nov 23], it sounded like a big thunderclap. I'm sure that was part of the cliff falling. "It’s just like cream cheese here really, it just seems to disappear because it's just clay and soil, there are no rocks. It just feels like it is being carved away." Nicola said she was told by her local council that she was now their “first priority” to be relocated after storms took away even more of the coastline last weekend. But she’s aware that the money she could be given for the move will be nowhere near the true value of the property if it was situated on firmer ground. She said: “A property my size with a garden and an annexe - it would probably be £375,000 or more if it was anywhere else. So, I’m not going to get that. “[The cliff] is less than 15 metres away from the house now. The local authorities are talking to us and preparing us and are going to help out. "But I don’t know how much financially they’re going to help out. “They’re keeping their cards close to their chests, which is fair enough because you can’t promise something that you can’t deliver. But they’re very, very closed on that. “For the people that went in 2012, it was hardly anything for the cost of their home. "Some were placed in local authority housing, paying rent, and others bought a hell of a lot smaller places." Nicola said it was particularly hard to leave the home as it was the place where her late husband Steve passed away at the age of 42 after suffering heart failure. And she was also facing up to the fact that her children would never be able to come back to their home in their later years. She said: “Losing your home is just like another grieving process. “One of my children was born here, and in that time, a whole road has gone. “It’s just absolutely crazy that they’re going to be able to stand on the beach and say ‘This is where my house was’. It’s just quite surreal really.” Rob Goodliffe, a coastal transition manager from North Norfolk District Council, said his team were working with Nicola to find "solutions" and offer support. He said: “We have recently met with Nicola and other residents with imminent risk of erosion at Happisburgh to explore their situations and what kind of support may assist them. "We are working hard to help them find solutions and provide them with support. "We are very grateful to be in the position we are with the Coastwise programme which will allow us to work with communities to explore options for the future to prepare for coastal change and begin to deliver practical actions. "Through this scheme, we are however not able to provide compensation for loss of homes, which has been the position of successive governments for a long period of time. "The Council is empathetic and sympathetic towards Nicola, the other residents and the communities affected along our coast and we look forward to working with them to help transition to coastal change.”