Published: 11:40, 02 June 2020
| Updated: 14:59, 02 June 2020
Shocking new photos show a house left teetering on a cliff edge has now fallen off.
The ground beneath the home in Eastchurch, Sheppey, started to crumble on Sunday, leaving it hanging precariously.
The driveway leading up to the front door had already disappeared, leaving railings dangling above, and the whole front section of the house in Surf Crescent was left with no support underneath after part of the cliff slid towards the sea on Friday night.
But now the house, owned by mother-of-five Emma Tullett, has completely given way.
It is understood the latest collapse happened at around 3am this morning and Swale Borough Council was first made aware at around 8.30am.
The council says one of their officers is assess the situation now to work out whether more homes need to be evacuated, the cordon needs to move back or other action is needed.
Stunned residents are still coming to terms with the cliff drama, which left at least five families homeless.
Some were allowed back into their homes yesterday to grab as many belongings as they could before being farmed out to nearby holiday parks or emergency council houses.
Others spent a little longer with vans ferrying furniture away.
Swale and Minster councillor Peter MacDonald says what has happened is "really dreadful" and fears more of the cliff could collapse in the coming days.
He said: "There's nothing we can do about it now that it's happened - the damage has been done because of a delay of action."
Mr MacDonald says there were previously 'chestnut bundles' at the bottom the cliff to give it support, but these were vandalised, leaving the earth vulnerable to severe erosion.
He thinks fossil hunters may have been partly to blame, removing the bundles to dig.
"Because surface water has been able to build up at the base, it has been eroded, and there is nothing to support the rest of the cliff," he said.
The councillor says "urgent action" needs to be taken to make sure this doesn't happen again.
"We need groins and beach enrichment - which can be done without spending vast sums of money - otherwise more homes could be lost. There are solutions, this is the 21st Century, officials just need to do it."
Swale council building staff were on hand yesterday monitoring any more slippage while officers handed out advice for packing 'grab bags' if there is another fall.
OpenReach engineers checked telephone lines and electrical contractors isolated power and installed temporary supplies. Sewers and water mains were also capped.
Lorry driver Edwin Cane ended up spending Friday night huddled in his Jeep Renegade with his wife Lynette, his sister Louise Ramsden and the family dog.
His bungalow, Fourwinds, in Third Avenue is behind Ms Tullett's home.
Speaking yesterday he said: "The first thing I knew was a knock on our door at 10.30pm from the police telling us to get out because the cliff had gone. We jumped into my car and went and sat at the top of the road and stayed there all night. It was freezing cold so I kept starting the engine.
"It was only when we got back to the house in the morning that we were told we should have gone to the rest centre at Minster.
"We were allowed to stay at our place on Saturday night but when I woke on Sunday I realised the rest of the cliff had gone with the woman's car and drive. Everything. There is now a 35-feet drop on the other side of my garden fence."
He has been offered a three-bedroom house in Chatham temporarily.
Mr Cane, 67, is originally from Dagenham. He said: "We have been here 15 years. My wife spotted it on the internet and fell in love with it. The house was a bit of a wreck but we have spent our savings doing it up. It's had a new roof and a floor and last year I spent £23,000 installing solar panels and a heat pump.
"People ask why we moved here but it is beautiful. You should see the view from my window. I'm also getting old, it is quiet and peaceful here and the neighbours are perfect and can't do enough. It's the perfect place to retire."
He added: "We went to a presentation in the village hall two years ago and saw a map which showed we were safe for another 25 years. This latest slip has broken my wife's heart."
He is fuming because he says the authorities have been slow to save the cliffs.
He said: "They have spent millions dumping rocks at Warden Bay to save the beach and millions at Minster to build a promenade. But when we ask for help here we are told there is no money."
He is not alone.
Two doors away from Ms Tullett's house lives Malcolm Newell. After spending a night at the Abbey Hotel he has been allocated accommodation on Shurland Dale Holiday Park.
He and Swale and Minster councillor Peter MacDonald have been campaigning for new groynes and ballast to strengthen the bottom of the cliffs as part of the Sheppey Coastal Protection Group and Eastchurch Gap Cliff Erosion Community Group for years and have installed netting and bushes to stabilise the cliffs.
Mr Newell said: "It was working well but we desperately needed something done at the bottom to stop everything sliding down. "We asked a year ago but were turned down."
Cllr MacDonald said: "Swale council supported us and Natural England understood what we wanted to do. But the Environment Department said it was too expensive."
He added: "The fossil-dealers also have a lot to answer for. Coachloads come to search for remains and then undermine the cliffs by digging. Some of our work was vandalised. Something urgent needs to be done. Erosion is becoming unsustainable."
Mr Newell was home at 9.20pm on Friday when one of Ms Tullett's daughters started banging on his door.
He said: "She said the cliff had gone. Everyone was in a bit of a panic. Our first thought was to get the kids out of the annexe at the back of the house.
"Then all the rescue services turned up. There were blue lights and fire engines everywhere. The place was like the middle of London. It was as if the bomb squad had been called. There were people everywhere.
"The family was taken away. They weren't allowed back in the building and had to leave all their possessions behind."
As of Sunday, four households, including Emma Tullett's family who lived in Cliffhanger were evacuated, totalling 15 people, who are being cared for at a rest centre and or have been found temporary housing.
Neighbouring properties are currently being inspected to assess the impact of this latest fall, and the council is urging people to stay away from the area in case of further collapses.
Electricity has been turned off in the houses which have been affected but it is understood power is fine for other homes in the crescent.
Homes in the street use portable oil or gas canisters for heating and these have been turned off and removed by emergency services for houses deemed unsafe.
It is believed there is no problem with water supply to inhabited homes at present.
More by this authorChloe Holmwood
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