Published: 13:08, 30 May 2020
| Updated: 09:01, 01 June 2020
A man who lives just metres away from a cliff which collapsed yesterday, forcing people to leave their homes, has been campaigning to get more protection for years.
Malcolm Newell, who lives in Surf Crescent in Eastchurch, Sheppey, was alerted to several feet of earth having fallen away from the road he lives in by a panicked neighbour.
Emma Tullett and her family, who live in Cliffhanger house, which is near to toppling over the edge, had been watching large cracks in the soil beside their home grow for several days.
Mr Newell, 70, had been round to see the damage, and said the gaps were growing by several inches each time he went back.
He tried pouring water in them so the clay bound back together, a trick which had previously worked, but this time did not, and the movement led to bricks starting to tumble from the house.
And then last night, one of the Ms Tullet's four children came round to tell Mr Newell a major landslide had occurred.
He said: "When I went round there before, the house was making noises and creaking. The family moved into a bungalow they have behind Cliffhanger because they didn't feel safe.
"Then they heard a crash and a while section of the cliff had disappeared - more than two metres wide and about 15 metres across. Part of the road has gone and you can't drive round there any more."
Kent Fire and Rescue Service says 20 households were evacuated, with all but two since allowed to return home following inspections by Swale Borough Council's building control.
The authority's leader, Cllr Roger Truelove, says 13 people from the remaining properties were given help at an emergency rest centre.
He added staff are now working to find them accommodation.
Many of the homes in Surf Crescent, Third Avenue and Dawn Rise have been without electricity since the incident, and were without running water for some hours.
Mr Newell, who was allowed to stay in his home during the ordeal as it was deemed safe enough, says more should have been done to protect the cliff from eroding.
The retired wood turner, who lives on his own, moved to the crescent in 2001 but says the extensive issues with erosion were not known to him at the time.
But he soon learnt that large sections of land were disappearing every year, threatening people's homes, caravans and farmland.
He thinks because the area falls within a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to fossils and species of plant found there, the authorities "have an excuse to not do anything".
"It is not only the properties it is affecting, but caravan sites, who've had to move dozens of caravans back over the years, and farmers who are losing a great deal of land," he said.
"It's also worrying because there are sewer pipes in the road, right near to where the cliff has come away."
He added: "We had a huge meeting with Natural England and put some environmental-friendly matting down at the top and planted trees but it wasn't enough."
Mr Newell says there needed to be wire cages filled with rocks at the bottom of the cliffs so when earth falls, it levels out, and more secure mesh at the top.
"If this was looked at earlier on and more was done, the cliff could have possibly been saved," he said.
"People complain that the money could be put to better use in the community, but we are part of the community - that's what's wrong here.
"I don't want to move, anyone would give a million dollars for that view, this was supposed to be the last stop for me."
A spokesman from Swale Borough Council said: "We met with local representatives and the Environment Agency to discuss erosion along this stretch of the Island.
“The new council administration have expressed their opposition to the current shoreline management plan approach where there is no active intervention to defend this area, and this position is due to be formalised when we are able to hold a full council meeting.
“In the intervening period, we have continued to engage with the Environment Agency to see what measures can be taken.”