Coastal housing 'blight' warning

Home-owners on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast fear the prices of their properties are set to plummet following a controversial new report that recommends abandoning long-standing sea defences.

One concerned resident in a clifftop North Norfolk village claims her home's price tag was slashed by £120,000, following publicity of the 100-year plan, which advocates a more natural approach to coastal defence.

It has also been blamed for one sale falling through,

And despite "don't panic" messages from engineers and an estate agents association, there are growing fears that he villages earmarked to be "abandoned" will have their property market irreparably blighted.

As reported in Saturday's EDP, the shoreline management plan recommends that the "hold the line" strategy to coastal defence is replaced by "managed retreat" – effectively condemning hundreds of houses, tourist facilities, and acres of farmland to be swamped by the encroaching sea.

Several rural communities in Norfolk and north Suffolk could be left to the forces of nature with only bigger seaside resorts getting reinforced defences.

Property with an estimated value of around £250m could be lost as a result of the shoreline management plan, drawn up by councils and authorities, which will officially be unveiled next month.

But, despite the long-term nature of the predictions, the property market, which is beginning to feel the strain of a collapse, has already reacted.

David Will, a chartered surveyor and former North Norfolk district councillor, said the management plan would have a "devastating" effect on the housing market.

"Places like Sea Palling, Walcott, Bacton, and Mundesley have been popular and have seen prices go up considerably. All of this will be blighted because people's views will change from this report," he said.

He said one house sale in Walcott fell through on Monday as a direct result of the report.

Meanwhile, values in Happisburgh, where sea erosion is a very real concern, have fallen by around 20pc over the last year, he said.

"People ask me to find defects in their houses and value their property. I have always taken the coastal erosion element into account but this has made the situation worse – people in the area are less likely to sell."

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh Coastal Concern Action Group said the report had caused a "blanket devaluation" of properties from Overstrand, near Cromer, to Corton, near Lowestoft, after being careful to protect land values in Happisburgh.

A house seller from Overstrand, who refused to be named, said the value of her property had gone from £265,000 to £145,000 overnight as a result of the report.

But Chris Hall from the National Association of Estate Agents urged homeowners not to panic.

"If something is reported in the media, people do take notice but I do not anticipate people putting their properties on the market," he said.

Brian Farrow, coastal protection engineer from North Norfolk District Council, who helped draw up the blueprint, said it was early days in the shoreline management plan and the public had not yet been consulted.

"Obviously there will be some concern but once people explore the position, I would be surprised if there were any real effects on property prices," he said.

The Bacton, Walcott and Ostend area will be worst hit by the management plan with £65.9m of losses, including nearly 400 properties, and a further £48.2m and 220 home loss to Mundesley.

The proposals will save towns like Cromer, Sheringham, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but will mean disappearing or narrowing beaches.

Gary Watson, coastal manager for North Norfolk District Council, called for as many people as possible to get involved in a public consultation exercise next month.

He added that the shoreline management plan was causing a "huge debate" over the "uncertain" effect on tourism.

"One side says it will improve with a shift to a natural functioning coastline with wild and rugged features, which will be attractive to tourists. The negative side is that cliff top properties will be lost like B&Bs and hotels," he said.

"There is no need to panic – we are required to look 100 years in the future, which is a sensible approach. All we ask is that people start to think about the ways we can shape our coastline.