Residents fear for homes as clifftop crumbles

RESIDENTS of a hamlet teetering on a cliff edge on the North Yorkshire coastline fear some homes will not survive the winter following a fresh series of landslips.

Three clifftop homes at Knipe Point, overlooking Cayton Bay, near Scarborough, have already been demolished after landslips. Residents at the site say about another four yards of land has fallen away during the recent cold snap, leaving their bungalows closer to the edge of a large drop into woodland below.

Around 15 homes, mainly owned by elderly people, are deemed at imminent risk and for some who have retired to Knipe Point, all of their money is tied up in their now worthless properties.

Yesterday when the Yorkshire Post visited the site, fresh land was slipping away.

Ron Backhouse, 74, lost part of his fence last week when a chunk of his garden 11 yards by 3 yards slipped away and says the side of his semi-detached bungalow is now just 11 yards from the cliff edge.

He said: "We were in bed when it happened but when we woke up we realised something looked different down there.

"We have lived here for 18 years, my wife Judith has MS and is disabled and its open position here was what attracted us to retire to Knipe Point.

"The majority of residents are second-home owners but it is different for us.

"The problem is there is no definitive answer, we don't know whether it will last a week or another 10 years.

"We bought the house for 45,000 but the value has plummeted and it is not worth anything now unless you give it away.

"We have no money to buy somewhere else but are hoping the council will assist us if we are made homeless and we need to leave here immediately.

"Of course it is a real cause of concern for both of us but at the moment we are trying to treat it as part of something exciting."

The landslips are believed to be caused by surface water running down the cliffs from land and undermining the ground.

The problem has been exacerbated by the recent melting snow.

The residents have each been offered 50,000 by Scarborough Borough Council towards a new plot if they agree to allow their existing properties to be demolished.

The money is available as part of a 1m Government grant to help communities adapt to coastal change.

However, campaigners at Knipe Point said 50,000 would not be enough to buy a plot of land in Scarborough and because of the average age of residents, ranging between 65 and 90, it is unreasonable to expect them to wait while new homes are built.

The chairman of the Knipe Point Owners Association, Malcolm Pirks, said they had raised 40,000 to pay a private contractor to assess the problem and they believe it could be resolved for about 160,000.

But he says while they are waiting for the council to say whether they will provide the money, more homes could be lost.

Mr Pirks said: "It is like living on a knife-edge and you just don't know what is going to happen from one day to the next and how long your house is going to last.

"We have come to a stalemate with the council and they have done absolutely nothing whatsoever to help us.

"We don't want new plots of land when residents who are aged between 65 and 90 will have to pay to live in a hotel for a year while their homes are built.

"People don't have the money for this."

Mr Pirks said that if residents had to move, then they should be able to move to existing properties and warned the weather was making the problem worse.

He said: "It was fine over the summer but this winter has been terrible and a lot more of the land has fallen away.

"If this bad winter carries on it's quite possible we will lose two of these and the two just further along.

"Since we've had this bad weather there are big chunks of it just falling down the cliff.

"At the rate it's going we won't survive this winter."

The Knipe Point Owners Association say it has commissioned further investigatory work to take place on where the water is coming from in the new year.

Scarborough Borough Council was unavailable for comment.

Artist inspired by devastation

ONE man who has found inspiration in the landslips at Knipe Point is Scarborough artist Kane Cunningham.

He bought a property there – once-valued at 160,000 – for a fraction of its price several years ago to use as both a studio and a "blank canvas". He has filmed spectacular sunrises and used the ever-shrinking and now tiny garden to paint stunning landscapes.

He has even drawn on the walls of the house as he waits for it to fall down.

According to the National Trust, which owns the Cayton Woods, there is no immediate danger of that happening.

The artist, who is a lecturer in fine art, held a Last Supper at the house earlier this year with a guest list that included former Cabinet Minister Clare Short – to toast the property and also discuss climate change.