Coast's last bastions take a beating

They are the last bastions of hope in saving swathes of Norfolk from being swallowed by the seas - the dunes and beach line.

But that final line of defence has been severely weakened following last week's tidal surge which battered the county's coastline.

In some places more than 10m of sand dunes, beach and cliffs were eroded by the powerful North Sea waves whipped up by high winds.

It is feared that without dunes and beaches to absorb the power of waves inland communities could be submerged in scenes reminiscent of the devastating 1953 floods.

Pat Gowen, of the North Sea Action Group, said that at Hemsby more than 8m metres of beach and dunes were washed away with Winterton and Horsey beaches also being swamped by floodwater as well.

Mr Gowen, who claims off-shore dredging contributes to erosion, said: “I am afraid that if we get a repeat of the recent weather and tidal surges then water could be reach up to people's bedrooms in Yarmouth.

“We lost many kilometres of Norfolk's coastline from Caister to Winterton.”

Jim Bratton, from the Scratby Coastal Erosion Group which campaigns to improve the village's sea defences, said that 6m of dune had been scoured away by the tide waters but the cliffs remained unscathed thanks to a rock berm.

The destruction of the natural sea defences and some manmade bulwarks has led to impassioned calls for the government to abandon plans to surrender parts of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast to the sea as part of a contentious shoreline management plan.

Malcolm Kerby, from the Happisburgh-based Coastal Concern Action Group, said about 10m of the village's cliff had been lost in last week's floods and about a half a dozen homes had been saved on Beach Road only because of temporary defences

He said: “The government must consider spending at least some money on improving defences, otherwise large parts of Norfolk will be at risk from apocalyptic scenes of flooding. If nothing is done then one day we could be talking about Norwich-on-Sea.”

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said damage to the area of coastline under its jurisdiction was minor, with sections from Hopton to Corton, at Lowestoft south beach and at Southwold affected.

There was also minor movement of coastal defence rocks at Ness Point in Lowestoft.

Meanwhile, Peter Boggis, who has built his own sea defences at Easton Bavents, near Southwold, said about 2m of exposed sections of the cliff was lost.

The government and coastal district councils are drawing up draft shoreline management plans which recommend giving up or not improving many village sea defences and concentrating on protecting larger towns, such as Yarmouth and Lowestoft, instead.