A couple have been handed a £5.5million bill to repair a riverbank that collapsed at the back of their £500,000 home just a year after they bought it.
Johnny, 63, and Belinda Boylan, 55, bought the property overlooking the River Arun in Arundel, West Sussex shortly before surging storm waters dragged away their terrace in January 2016.
The family were in bed when at 3.30am they heard a crashing sound as the terrace outside the back of their home was washed away.
Johnny and Belinda Boylan, pictured, saw raging flood waters wash away the terrace from outside their home on the River Arun in Arundel, West Sussed in January 2016
The couple moved into their riverside home a year earlier but have been told they must pay to repair the flood defences which could cost a total of £5.5 million
Despite repairing minor damage to the wall two weeks before the collapse, the Environment Agency said the couple would have to repair the wall themselves, which could cost up to £5.5million.
Mr Boylan, who is a film maker, and his wife cannot afford the repairs and is concerned his property, worth around £500,000, will be pulled into the river by rising waters.
He also fears neighbouring properties along with his own could collapse as water seeps under the foundations of the building.
The couple got married last June, two months after she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
She feared she would not be able to say her vows if the pair delayed their nuptials as her condition was deteriorating.
Mr Boylan, a father of three, said: ‘Without any explanation it all collapsed one night and, along with it, our lives.
‘If it had happened ten hours earlier someone could have been killed or seriously injured.
Mr and Mrs Boylan fear their home is on the verge of collapsing into the river
‘It’s a mystery as to why this happened, it could have been caused when the Environment Agency carried out repairs and changed the dynamic of the wall.
‘We have been living on the edge of the river in Arundel for two years now with pretty much no help from anyone.
‘We can’t do it, we can’t afford it. We don’t have a million pounds to repair this disaster.
‘Motor Neurone Disease is such a cruel condition, there’s nothing you can do, it’s awful to watch someone you love just shut down, she can’t get out any more really.
‘She was the main campaigner for the wall and the stress of it all contributed to the deterioration of her condition.’
Four-tonne bags of stone were placed on the river bank to help prevent further damage
Residents feared their homes could have collapsed into the river as a result of the flood waters
A major operation was launched on the night of the storm to secure the house
The couple had to move out of the house, but were then forced to return due to rising costs of renting another property, despite water starting to come through the back doors during high tide.
At the time the Environment Agency said repair work could range between £1.8million and £5.5million, offering the couple £200,000 towards the fix.
The wall was not included in the deeds of the property when Mr Boylan bought the house in February 2015 and there was no indication it was part of the purchased land until the collapse occurred.
The Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, owns much of the land around the town, including the river bed, according to Johnny.
Mr Boylan says the Environment Agency had been monitoring the wall for around 19 years and initially carried out emergency repairs to the flood defence wall before shifting responsibility back to residents.
He added: ‘The house is on the verge of collapsing into the river, we don’t know what to do. The Enviroment Agency has been monitoring the river for 19 years.
‘They now say I own the wall but it’s not on our deeds or property. I don’t know how they expect us to pay that.
‘The water comes right up to our door, at high tide the water comes into our house and there’s nothing to stop it going under the house as well as the neighbouring ones.
‘It’s a very bleak moment in our lives.’
After two years, businesswoman Kim Parkes has rallied local residents to form the River Road Action Group.
The group will seek to raise funds to repair the flood defences and change the couple’s lives for the better.
The group plans to launch a campaign called The Belinda Boylan Arundel Flood Defence Appeal.