A former soldier whose home was teetering on the edge of a crumbling cliff top has saved it from demolition – by dragging the whole building 10ft back from the abyss.
Lance Martin’s bungalow was on the verge of being knocked down after a spate of high tides and gale force winds had left him just 3ft away from a 50ft drop.
The former Grenadier Guard lives in the seaside town of Hemsby, Norfolk, which has been battered by severe coastal erosion in recent weeks, forcing residents to evacuate their cliffside homes.
Previous attempts to move Mr Martin’s house had been unsuccessful, and he was issued a ‘high noon’ deadline by Great Yarmouth Borough Council who said his home would be demolished if he failed to make any significant progress by 12pm the next day.
But despite the setbacks Lance refused to give up, and gathered a rag-tag army of friends, neighbours and contractors to help him pull his house back from the brink of Wednesday morning.
After toiling all day and failing to move the teetering bungalow even an inch away from the cliff, nobody was feeling very optimistic.
But a key breakthrough was made after the team discovered a concrete plinth under part of the house was impeding movement.
After getting a digger to lift up a corner of the house, splintering its wooden frame in the process, the team were eventually able to break up and remove the obstruction by hand.
They then chained the bungalow to a telegraph pole and used a thick canvas strap to attach it to the powerful 13-tonne digger.
Cheered on by a group of watching villagers, the two diggers finally managed to force the house free from its concrete foundations and drag it 3 metres way from the cliff edge to safety at around 12.30pm- just as the council official arrived to serve Lance his papers.
Upon witnessing his triumph, Lance, 65, threw his hands in the air and said: ‘The impossible has been done… It’s just a miracle.’
‘It’s given us the breathing space we needed,’ the delighted pensioner told the Mail.
‘Now we’ve shown it can be moved, we can make proper arrangements to put the house across the road once we’ve cleared the site, which will hopefully give me the time I need.’
He added: ‘These guys have been terrific and I’m so grateful to them and to the Pines for their help, as well as the local lifeboat crew who brought us the telegraph poles. The whole community has helped with this.’
Lance said he was determined to carry on living in his house with its panoramic views of the North Sea which he likened this week to ‘the world’s best infinity pool’.
He said: ‘I hope it means that I will be able to live here for another 20 years. There is no way that I am going to give up now.
‘You can actually hear the rumble of the sea through the building when you go to bed. It is just a fantastic way to live.’
Lance bought his bungalow for £95,000 in 2017 after taking early retirement from his job as a Whitehall security officer and selling his flat in Dagenham, Essex.
At the time he had 120ft between his home and the cliff, which was eroding at the rate of a metre a year, giving him up to 40 years at the spot.
But the rate accelerated during his first winter in his new home, and the Beast from the East storm in February 2018 led to about 90ft of cliff being washed away in just two nights.
During the second night of mountainous seas, he heard a rumble and looked down to see the waves beneath his kitchen floor, as his home was left hanging precariously over the edge.
Lance moved into a caravan for eight weeks while the council made demolition orders requiring his home and a dozen others on the cliff to be knocked down to stop them falling over the edge.
More than 60 of the boulders, each weighing around 1.5 tons, are stacked on top of each other to form a crescent shaped wall protecting the base of the cliff beneath his house.
But huge tides two weeks ago washed away sand from the front and back of his rock wall, weakening the cliff and making his home even more precarious.
He is holding on to the hope that the Government will eventually fund a £12 million project to put 1km long rock berm sea defences along the length of beach at Hemsby to protect the entire village.
The council this week agreed to install 1,900 tons of boulders on the beach close to the village’s lifeboat station as an emergency sea defence measure.
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