Wet weather puts £6m Sidmouth cliff-top homes at risk of collapse
It could be Britain’s most expensive property collapse with more than £6 million worth of cliff-top houses set to be engulfed by the results of one of the wettest years on record.
Residents in 12 beautiful properties in Sidmouth, East Devon, worth an average of £500,000 each and overlooking a world famous coastline, fear catastrophic coastal collapses could claim them imminently after initially thinking they had decades left in their homes.
John Radford, 62, who has owned 1 Cliff Road in the resort for 45 years, is the street’s longest-standing resident.
He says a pair of massive landslips in the space of a few weeks claimed about 15 metres of his garden – and that more major falls are inevitable.
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Sidmouth is part of the Unesco Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which is important for its sequence of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks.
However, the landslides which have hit the cliffs there look set to take an expensive toll.
Mr Radford said: “The houses here are unsellable and unmortgageable.
“The people living in them are trapped. Insurance doesn’t cover erosion.”
A scheme to remedy Sidmouth’s receding eastern coastline looks to be two years from becoming a reality.
Wet weather at the end of last year led to several major cliff falls that saw residents rename a cliff feature called Pennington Point as Pennington Cove because so much of it fell away.
Retired solicitor Mr Radford said: “Before the disaster of November I was reasonably sanguine and thought we’d get another 20 to 25 years.
“We could be out in three.
“The amount of garden we lost in the course of six weeks was more than in 12 years.
“They were catastrophic and certainly the two biggest falls I’ve ever seen.
“The difference between the end of November and a year before is absolutely astonishing.
“We are very lucky to be second-home owners.
“I feel dreadfully sorry for people in the road, who are older than me, who are not.
“I’m worried about my property but I’m equally concerned about Alma Bridge and the town.
“We’re getting to the stage where banks of the River Sid will be exposed and that stands between Sidmouth and flooding.
“It could be 24 months before we get a scheme.
“So much will have been lost by then.”
Paul Griew, leader of the Cliff Road Action Group, said November’s landslips had been disastrous.
He said other residents in the street expected to lose their properties within about 20 years.
“Talks are going at half the speed that one would like, while the cliff erosion is accelerating,” he said.