Hemsby villagers feel 'abandoned' over sea defence funding ahead of winter storms

  • Natalie Gray spoke to residents in Hemsby, who said they were devastated after the government confirmed it would not fund permanent sea defences in the village

Villagers living by the sea say they feel "abandoned" by the government as they prepare to last another winter on their vulnerable coastline.

The village of Hemsby near Great Yarmouth has spent a decade planning for £15m permanent sea defences.

But residents learned last week that authorities were not going to fund it as costs had risen so much and because the village does not meet the government's criteria.

Five homes in the village have already been lost to the sea this year and another is teetering on the edge.

Cristie Morris is terrified her home in Hemsby will be lost to the sea Credit: ITV News Anglia

Cristie Morris has lived on The Marrams in Hemsby for 23 years.

She is recovering from breast cancer and is now terrified her home will also be lost to the sea like so many of her neighbours' homes.

She said: "Devastated. It's disgusting. I'm devastated. My heart is broken."

She added: "We wake up every morning and a little bit more has gone.

"My daughter, she's only nine and she has nightmares about when their neighbours houses fell into the sea and the JCBs were taking all their debris away.

"I have nightmares every night and it's just adding to the stress. I just want to come home and be safe."

Campaigners from Save Hemsby Coastline say they will continue to fight for up to £20m to cover the cost of the rock berm - the stones which will protect the fragile sand dunes.

They were having to inform vulnerable residents on the eve of Storm Babet arriving. Meanwhile, signs saying 'Shame on you', directed at local authorities, have been put up.

A banner that reads 'shame on you' in Hemsby. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ian Brennan, Save Hemsby Coastline, said: "To see [last week] when Rishi Sunak was in Clacton talking about levelling up coastal towns and villages and offering lots of money but we get nothing at all.

"In fact, we get told we're going to be abandoned and that's very frustrating - a very sad situation."

Lorna Bevan, the owner of the Lacon Arms pub, summed up her feelings: "Devastated, abandoned, cross, angry upset. You name it, I feel it."

Hemsby has lost 60 homes since 1991.

A sea barrier in Hemsby Credit: ITV News Anglia

In March, former grenadier guard Lance Martin managed to drag his bungalow back from the edge for a second time.

Carl Lewis, leader Great Yarmouth Council, said: "We certainly haven't abandoned, we will never abandon the people of Hemsby. As I speak, we've got teams of officers up there speaking to the residents of The Marrams to see what help we can give them.

"The budget in Great Yarmouth for the borough for next year is £12-13m. We're talking about £20m for a rock berm (in Hemsby), you know. We haven't got the money here in Great Yarmouth.

"We put £250,000 of our own money in April for a temporary scheme, which has held the road at this present time."

Kevin Jordan, who is disabled and lives just a few metres from the cliff edge in Hemsby Credit: ITV News Anglia

But Kevin Jordan, who is disabled and lives just a few metres from the cliff edge, said there was a huge cost to people like him.

He said: "It means it's getting closer and closer to the time I'm going to be homeless. It's going to be even closer to the time when I'm not going to have vehicle access again and being disabled, that's very important to me."

There are fears it could be the end of Hemsby Lifeboat too.

Coxswain Dan Hurd said: "By the sound of it, they are going to do nothing for Hemsby - they're going to let that (the coastline) go back.

"Our fear is now that we've got to look to relocate the lifeboat shed or disband it altogether."

Karen Thomas, from Coastal Partnership East, spoke in Lowestoft in Suffolk last week as the town opened its new tidal flood walls.

She said it had been "very very challenging" to attract funding even for "a place the size and scale of Lowestoft".

She said: "For many of our smaller rural communities in the open coast, the challenge is even harder, but they are impacted the most by climate change."

The Environment Agency was contacted for comment.

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