Startling new images reveal extent of Happisburgh erosion
- Credit: Mike Page / Danielle Booden
More has to be done to prevent the village of Happisburgh disappearing from the the map, according to campaigner Malcolm Kerby.
Mr Kerby, one of the co-founders of the village's Coastal Action Group, called on the government to fund a "roll-back" so homes and other structures threatened by erosion could be built further inland.
It comes as new images from aerial photographer Mike Page reveal the startling rate at which the cliff line at Happisburgh has fallen away in the past 35 years.
Houses that once perched precariously on the edge are no longer there, and the aged network of wooden sea walls and groynes has been all but swept away.
Mr Kerby, who has travelled across the country studying the effects of coastal erosion on other communities, said because the government had made a 6.1-hectare stretch of the cliffs an area of special scientific interest it was illegal to build further defences there, making further erosion inevitable.
He said: "What you can't do is change the policy from 'hold the line' to one of 'managed realignment', meaning no active intervention, without providing a method and the funds to allow the community to adapt.
"With a roll-back policy, in 200 years you would still have Happisburgh, unlike other coastal communities which have disappeared completely and their heritage didn't continue.
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"The government is paying out millions to those affected by the policy of the fast rail link from London to Manchester.
"We're also affected by government policy and we've just got to paddle our own canoe. The lack of social justice here is enormous. The problem is going to get much worse."
Patrick Tubby, chairman of the Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust, keeps track of the erosion by measuring the distance from the lighthouse's wall to the closest point on the cliffs each year.
Mr Tubby said the last main falls of soil from the cliffs had taken place last winter, and there had not been any since then.
He said: "Over the last seven years or so, the closet point to the lighthouse has reduced from 168 metres in 2014 to 145 metres now.
"The regression is on average about three metres a year, which is about the same it has always been.
"More protection at Happisburgh would be of course welcomed, and in reality, this would be the only way to slow the erosion rate going forward."
Mr Tubby said the sand consisted of less sand and more clay moving further away from the cliffs, and because of this the rate of erosion was expected to slow.
He said the lighthouse's life expectancy was a "million dollar question" which no-one had the answer to, but said on current rates, it should last another 50-80 years.
Mr Tubby said: "Moving the lighthouse would not be an option - any expense in trying to do that would be better spent on sea defences.
"The lighthouse is an icon of Norfolk, but in 30 or 40 years, with advances in technology, would it actually be of benefit to mariners as a navigation aid?"
A spokesman for the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: "Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment. That’s why we are investing a record £5.2 billion to build 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to better protect 336,000 properties across England.
“Alongside this record investment, our new long-term policy statement on flood and coastal erosion risk management is the most comprehensive in a decade with five ambitious policies and over 40 supporting actions to accelerate progress to better protect and prepare the country for future flooding and coastal erosion.”