Terrified neighbours teetering on cliff edge fear their homes will be next – six months after family house plunge

TERRIFIED residents fear their homes on a clifftop community could fall into the sea within weeks if nothing is done to protect them from daily landslides.

Almost six months ago, mum-of-five Emma Tullett was left heartbroken as her dream £195,000 Spanish villa-style bungalow plunged off the edge of the cliff over four days in May.


The furious community in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent have since taken matters into their own hands by attempting to shore up the cliffside themselves with tonnes of clay.

But council chiefs halted the work with a temporary stop notice last month just as they finished removing all the rubble and were set to start filling the void.

In the meantime, heavy rain has seen even more land slip over the edge. On Sunday, 15ft of land collapsed in heavy rain from one resident’s garden.

Blaming months of inaction for the cliff continuing to collapse, residents are now pleading for permission to protect their homes before it is too late.

Now they say heavy rain is causing daily slips of land.

Neighbours Ed Cane, 67, and Julian Green, 62, fear it will only be a matter of weeks until their bungalows end up at the bottom of the drop as they continue to watch their cliff-facing gardens grow smaller day by day.

Delivery driver Mr Cane, who lives in a two-bedroom bungalow with wife Lynn backing onto Emma's annexe, watched 15ft of his garden fence crumble on Sunday leaving a sheer drop to the 20ft sinkhole below.

He attempted to use clay to prevent any more falling but claims the Environment Agency attended today with two police officers to warn him to stop fly-tipping on his own land.

Mr Cane said: "They won't do anything to help us and are making it impossible for us to save our own livelihoods.

"I don't know how much longer I'm going to be here for. If that amount of land can fall in one go then my house could drop off at any moment.

DAILY LANDSLIDES

"I'm really scared of what could happen. We are living in fear.

"It just wears you down as you're constantly on edge.

"This terrible weather isn't helping and that's why we wanted to get the hole filled before winter.

"There are 49 houses here, used to be 50, and they seem happy to let these go off the cliff one by one despite the current housing shortage."

Retired lorry driver Mr Green added: "I don't think my house will be here by Christmas."

He paid £80,000 a year and a half ago for the one-bedroom bungalow he lives in with wife Christine, 58, son Jason, 38, his wife Jess, 35, and their two children David, 16, and Shyla, 11.

Mr Green said: "We fear for our safety all the time. We don't sleep.

"If we don't do something soon, my house could go and Ed's house go. By December or January, I think another home will be down there.

"We've been completely forgotten about and until a second house goes, no one will listen."

Furious parish councillor Malcolm Newell, 71, who chairs Eastchurch Gap Community Group Ltd company, decided along with the owners of 48 neighbouring properties to sort things out themselves.

His bungalow was left teetering near the edge when the Cliffhanger home finally fell on June 1.

He was forced out of the home he bought in 2001, which he says is worth £1million to him and seeing Ms Tullett lose everything only intensified his ongoing campaign for help.

I'm really scared of what could happen. We are living in fear

A deal with a private contractor was made so the cliff would be shored up with unwanted clay.

As part of the rebuilding process, a platform had to be created at the bottom of the cliff to allow the digger with a 15ft arm to remove the rubble – but even that couldn't reach the bottom of the hole.

Clay has been used to build up around the edges of Surf Crescent with the hope of eventually building the former road back to land level and grassing the bank to allow dog walkers to use it as a footpath.

But as soon as they had finished clearing all the debris and were set to fill the estimated 20ft deep sinkhole, work was brought to a crashing stop.

Furious Mr Newell said: "We really need to be allowed to get a move on with the work as it's only a matter of time until we lose more of our community.

"Time is ticking. Yet this disgraceful red tape is preventing us from making it safe.

"If it continues to rain like it has been then I do believe Ed and Julian's homes could be gone by Christmas. We can fix this before it's too late."

Swale Borough Council said last month work of such size required planning permission.

A spokesman said: “We are concerned about the ecological effect the soil dumping will have on the surrounding site of special scientific interest and other potential harm that could arise.

“The temporary stop notice requires residents to halt any activity for 28 days while we liaise with other relevant agencies including Kent County Council, the Environment Agency and Natural England.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency, which is responsible for regulating the movement of waste, added on October 21: "Contractors working on behalf of the Surf Crescent residents registered waste exemptions with the Environment Agency which enable waste materials to be used in certain circumstances.

"The Environment Agency inspected the site on October 7 and found that waste had been placed in the sinkhole outside the terms of this exemption.

"As a result, we advised several local residents and the contractor that we would de-register the exemptions and asked them to stop importing waste to the site."




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