Life on Yorkshire's cliffedge as coastal erosion threatens homes

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Every morning before she puts the kettle on Chey Kenyon looks to see if her garden fence is still there.

With the fence literally marking the edge of a crumbling cliff yards from her home, her concern is understandable.

Chey Kenyon whose home is on the cliffedge at Skipsea Picture: Alex Wood

Chey Kenyon whose home is on the cliffedge at Skipsea Picture: Alex Wood

Chey is one of more than 20 property owners living on Green Lane, Skipsea, on Yorkshire's fast-eroding coastline, where up to 3ft of land is being lost to the sea every month.

Chey bought the property five years ago and has furnished it in a comfortable and welcoming style.

A huge sofa can accomodate a dozen people and the table is laid - Chey often gives dinner parties for neighbours in her beautifully-appointed home.

Even though strong easterly winds send pebbles rattling against her windows and waves dashing over her garden - planted with Spring bulbs - she says she loves where she lives.

A council report says a "single erosion event" could see homes at Skipsea "becoming at imminent risk within the next year" Picture: Alex Wood

A council report says a "single erosion event" could see homes at Skipsea "becoming at imminent risk within the next year" Picture: Alex Wood

She says: "I got a good deal, I thought it doesn't matter, the view is beautiful. The price was right and my furniture wouldn't fit in anywhere else.

She hopes her regular gifts of her best biscuits - chucking them over the fence in the direction of the North Sea - will please the "sea goddess".

"I am hoping for another five years," she says. "Once it takes my fence I will start worrying. I am not worrying at the moment."

As she speaks two officials wearing backpacks make their way over the clifftop using satellite-based navigation systems to monitor erosion.

Chey Kenyon inside her comfortable home at Skipsea Picture: Alex Wood

Chey Kenyon inside her comfortable home at Skipsea Picture: Alex Wood

A new East Riding Council report says while erosion losses generally down the East Yorkshire coast were much lower than expected over the winter of 2018/19, there are exceptions.

These include Skirlington, Tunstall and south Withernsea.

It adds: "Since March 2019 the monthly GPS surveys have shown that erosion rates at Skipsea and Withernsea have increased significantly, with south of Withernsea recording an erosion rate of over one metre per month." Just a "single erosion event" could see many of the houses on Green Lane "becoming at imminent risk within the next year".

Chey's neighbour Sarah Carlill says that when it gets to just over nine metres, they will be forced to move out and demolish their own homes. Luckily her home is on wheels, so she is intending to move it back.

Erosion rates at Skipsea have "increased significantly" according to a council report Picture: Alex Wood

Erosion rates at Skipsea have "increased significantly" according to a council report Picture: Alex Wood

Like Chey, she has lavished TLC on her chalet.

She bought the site which was occupied by a "shack" for £15,000 two years ago in May and has spent £15,000 doing up her home, and is now building a gin bar.

"I did buy it for the view," she says. "My husband thought I was a lunatic. I've put in a log burner, new double glazing.

"It is beautiful out here. I am enjoying it while it lasts. If the Government put rock armour here I would be even happier."

The council’s most recent aerial survey shows 24 properties will be at risk of coastal erosion by 2025, and some 237 by 2105.

Vast swathes of Holderness, outside the built-up areas of Bridlington, Withernsea and Hornsea, have been left undefended for decades as a result of a “do nothing” policy, agreed by successive Governments.

Dozens of homes and a key coastal road in Withernsea which are threatened by coastal erosion were thrown a lifeline by a 3 million grant from Europe last year Picture: Simon Hulme

Dozens of homes and a key coastal road in Withernsea which are threatened by coastal erosion were thrown a lifeline by a 3 million grant from Europe last year Picture: Simon Hulme

Coastal defences are judged “not economically, socially or environmentally sustainable” for much of the sparsely inhabited area, which has one of the fastest eroding coastlines in North West Europe.

Last October, residents in Withernsea celebrated after securing a £3m grant from Europe towards extending defences by 400m and saving a key coastal road, as well as 70 homes and 250 chalets. The £5.5 million scheme should get underway this year.

However Skipsea is in an undefended area.

Sarah is one of six living on Green Lane hoping that a housing association’s plans to develop land inland for housing come to fruition.

She said: “It’s frustrating. They will do it for Withernsea, for Bridlington, but they won’t do it for Green Lane.

“If I was Boris, I’d put a sea defence up, end of. I asked even if I won the Lottery could I put a sea defence up?

"She said: ‘You are not allowed, they don’t want you to do anything.”

It comes as the Government is being urged to set up a national fund to cover the often unforseen costs of coastal erosion.

The council report warns that the local authority may not have sufficient funding to cover the cost of demolishing all 24 properties, set to be lost by 2025.

It could leave homeowners having to pick up the cost of knocking down their own home, as well as the expense of relocating.

Coun Jane Evison said: “We are asking for a national fund that we would be able to bid for, for stopping up roads, demolishing houses. It’s not huge sums in the grand scheme of things.

"For people to lose a home and incur a cost - that is a really hard thing.”

Her motion asking for a letter to be sent to Defra last week won unanimous backing from fellow councillors.

She said in areas like Skipsea their "hands were tied" as they are not allowed to actively intervene. She said: "There must be some financial support."