A defiant old soldier whose home faces tumbling into the sea has been ordered to stop doing DIY to protect his property.
Lance Martin, 61, had been using a mechanical digger to transfer concrete blocks and piling up sand at the base of a crumbling cliff to protect his bungalow.
This comes after a number of nearby homes perched on a cliff edge were evacuated and demolished in the aftermath of the ‘Beast from the East’ storm earlier this year.
Bungalows were left hanging from the edge of the clifftop at the Marrams, in Hemsby, Norfolk, where some began toppling into the sea in March.
Pictured, left, the chalet home sits among other properties before the storm and, right, the chalet sits alone following the extreme weather, which left Great Yarmouth Council ordering the destruction of homes on the coast. Despite Lance going it alone to save his house, he has been stopped from putting in flood defences it could take the council more than three years to complete
This is how badly Lance’s chalet was hanging off the cliff in the aftermath of the storm. It faced falling off completely after the extreme weather battered his house
The storm’s damage affected the surroundings of the chalet, which was left in a precarious position despite being the only one in the immediate stretch of land to survive
This shocking image shows the effects of the Beast from the East. Both properties either side of Lance’s are gone – and now he’s being stopped from restoring his to its former glory
The former soldier (pictured, outside his home) says that he’s willing to put in the sea defences necessary to protect his property but has been told that doing so will violate planning rules
Despite the damage that the storm wrought on his property (pictured, left, the chalet following the impact of the Beast from the East), Lance managed to restore it (pictured, right, the house following his repairs)
But Lance has now been ordered to stop building his own sea defences by the local council which says he is breaking planning rules.
Lance, who served in the British Army from 1978 to 2000, said: ‘I looked at the tide tables and saw there were a lot of high tides coming up. I thought I’ve got to do something about this.’
A major demolition of the chalet-type buildings was conducted by the council after the eroding coastline they were built on left them uninhabitable.
The ex-soldier (pictured) took matters into his own hands when disaster struck his house on the seaside, leaving it at risk of crumbling into the sea
But homeowner Lance managed to salvage his chalet, which he bought as a retirement property and has since been conducting his own work on his house ahead of the winter. However, the borough council has banned him from carrying out any more work involving the beach.
Lance added: ‘I know from speaking to the council that they have plans for coastal sea defences but that’s going to take at least three years, which is no good to me or other residents.
‘I knew there were about 50 concrete blocks under the sand outside my house. I decided off my own bat to go hire a digger, dig them up and use them to fortify my position here, to give myself protection from the high tides.’
Lance said the concrete blocks ranged from two to three square metres, and weighed up to four tonnes each. With a friend, the former grenadier guardsman started moving the heavy objects on Thursday October 8, and took a week to get them all into position on the beach.
The storm pounded the Norfolk coast, eroding it to such an extent that properties faced plunging down the side of the cliffs and into the sea
He added: ‘We got to the stage where we had all the blocks where we wanted them and started to back fill them with sand.
‘Then on the Thursday evening, I had a phone call from the planning department of Great Yarmouth council telling me to immediately stop and desist what we were doing.’
Why did the council demolish chalets?
In May, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said the ‘loss of cliff material’ on the coast meant the wooden chalets were now ‘dangerous’.
Police cordoned the area off as diggers moved in to clear the debris and demolish the homes.
At the time, Lance said he was hopeful that he could save his property.
‘The council want to demolish it, it’s as simple as that,’ he said. ‘And I can completely understand it because of the public safety aspect.
‘But I am also thinking about the possibility of pulling it [the house] forward. If I can it’s a bonus, if I can’t life goes on. It was my dream. It still is, and if I can salvage anything from it I will.’
An evacuation centre was been set up at Hemsby Village Hall and electricity to the threatened homes was cut.
Lance asked the if he could fill in the holes left on the beach for public safety, but the council told him no.
He said: ‘The problem is that I’ve gone and done something that I should’ve applied for but because of the imminent danger to the building and myself, I took it upon myself to do what needed to be done.
‘If not, we would be two or three months down the line and I would be in the sea on my way to Norway.’
Lance said that in a council meeting at Hemsby village hall in May, he was told by a councillor that nothing would happen regarding coastal defences for at least three years.
He moved to the spot in Norfolk in November 2017, buying the small bungalow for £95,000. Lance said: ‘This is my dream home. When I moved here, I could not see the sea from my roof.
‘If I see something that needs doing, I will go ahead and do it. I just don’t see the end because it’s a committee for this, and a committee for that.’
The father-of-one, who lives at the property with his partner Vicki, said he moved to the area because he was a keen bird spotter and nature lover.
He added: ‘When I first moved here it was surrounded on three sides by sand dunes, it was just beautiful. I’ve been around this coast over the last 17 years and I just love the area. I used to sit outside with a gin and tonic and watch the sun set.’
Asked about the future, he said: ‘I feel a bit more secure for now. If the council do pull their finger out and get some defence down, then I will feel more secure and so will the people behind me.’
A spokesman from the Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: ‘The Borough Council has no record of any related application seeking consent for the works carried out and issued a Temporary Stop Notice, under the powers afforded by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
‘The notice prohibits any further excavations or engineering operations on the affected land without the prior necessary approval of the Council.
‘Whilst the Council appreciates the intention of the works is coastal protection, such engineering works cannot be undertaken without consent.
‘People using Hemsby beach are asked to take care and to avoid walking in the immediate area of the works, given the uneven surfaces.’