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Postcard from Britain’s coastline: The residents watching the sea destroy their homes

More than 20 homes could be lost to coastal erosion on the UK's east coast this year

Dozens of people in Skipsea, Yorkshire, face losing their homes to the sea on the fastest disappearing coastline in North West Europe. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dozens of people in Skipsea, Yorkshire, face losing their homes to the sea on the fastest disappearing coastline in North West Europe. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

On a picturesque piece of British coastline, once known as Millionaires View, it’s hard to imagine there’s a daily threat faced by its residents.

But the East Yorkshire village of Skipsea sits on Europe’s fastest eroding coastline.

Last year 10 metres of land was lost to the sea – more than double the average rate for the area.

The coastal cliff top road, which once connected the village to the local towns, no longer exists.

Southfield Lane – much like the paths connected to it - has crumbled away and now abruptly ends on the edge of the village in a dramatic 20ft drop to the sea. The area can now only be accessed from inland.

The residents living on the cliff edge can now only watch as their idyllic homes and gardens slip away into the sea – surveyors have said more than 20 properties could be lost in the coming year.

Deborah Hawksley’s family bought their home on the cliff top in 1934.

Just 20 years ago another row of houses stood in front of them but now they too have been washed away.

She said it is now only a matter of time before they are served eviction notices to evacuate their homes.

As she looks out to sea from the bottom of her garden, she said: “There are times when the sea is hitting this cliff.

“Then you realise it’s metres from your home. And there’s nothing you can do. Once this has gone, we lose our slice of paradise.

“With the rising tides, the sea-levels coming up all the time [and] climate change - it's going to get worse. I can't begin to describe the sadness when it no longer exists.”

More than 30 neighbouring villages, including Out Newton, Dimlington, Monkwike, dating back to Roman times have now disappeared.

The town of Ravenser Odd was a thriving sea port which provided ships for the royal fleet and had its own mayor. It is even mentioned in Shakespeare's Richard II but now it no longer exists.

It was following the fate of Ravenser Odd that the residents of Kilnsea moved their entire village inland and rebuilt the church after erosion became so bad that it exposed bodies in the graveyard.

An official report last month commissioned by East Riding Council into the impact of erosion on the coastline warned that due to climate change nothing can be done.

It has warned that a "single erosion event“ could put 24 properties at imminent risk within the next year - and more than 200 homes will be lost in the coming decades.

The report said: “Within the East Riding a significant number of people, homes, businesses and infrastructure assets are at risk from coastal erosion and tidal flooding over the next 100 years. This is because coastal defences are not economically, socially or environmentally sustainable for large stretches of the East Riding coast, which suffers from having one of the fastest eroding coastlines in North West Europe.

“This erosion rate is expected to increase in future due to sea level rise and more frequent storm events linked to climate change, which will put even greater pressure on both the coast and council resources.

“Due to the layout of the properties at risk in Skipsea, and the level of risk to the properties, it is possible that a single erosion event could result in a large number of properties becoming at imminent risk within the next year.”

With no UK government policy on providing sea defences for smaller areas, villages like Skipsea will eventually be lost to the sea.

For now all its residents can do is await their fate as daily landslips slowly creep closer to their doors.

Updated: March 11, 2020 06:29 PM

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