Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Cliffhanger

No way would I buy a house near a cliff edge, however stable and secure it was supposed to be. Cliffs are unreliable things, they can be rock solid for decades and then one day collapse dramatically.

As London property developer Sue Diamond has just discovered. She bought a six-bedroom clifftop house in Torquay, Devon, last week and just six days later a huge chunk of her garden disappeared in a 5,000 tonne rock fall.

Not surprisingly she's said to be too upset to talk about it.

I guess she decided it was a risk worth taking, as a house that would normally cost about £1.5 million was sold to her at auction for just £154,500. A pretty tempting discount for a spacious seaside hideaway with stunning views of the English Channel.

But the cliffs around Britain are eroding rapidly, and numerous houseowners have found their gardens, or even their houses, crumbling into the sea overnight. It's not a risk I would have anything to do with.

And it's a risk the buyer knows all about. They can't say when disaster strikes that it came out of the blue, they were taken unawares.

The people I feel sorry for are the ones who buy a lovely house in a pretty spot and are then faced with some totally unexpected development that ruins their little bit of paradise for ever. All of a sudden rolling green fields turn into a hideous housing estate, or a thunderous motorway, or they find a local factory is pumping out toxic chemicals.

They can protest as much as they like, but the politicians and local authorities seldom take much notice. They're written off as moaning Nimbys*, diehards standing in the way of progress, or hysterical nutters smearing some harmless activity. Or they're told "Well, you had it good for a long time. It couldn't last for ever."

They didn't see their purchase as risky, but it turned out to be just that.

* Not In My Back Yard
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25 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

Blimey, if I was quite a bit richer than I am, then I would have risked £154k... but I would understand the gamble.
Sx

Scarlet Blue said...

...but I've just read the article and I've changed my mind...
Sx
And yes I do think it's unfair when homes are blighted.

Nick said...

Scarlet - I wouldn't take the risk even if I was getting a 90 per cent discount. That house is well and truly blighted!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'd be too terrified of being taken with the house when it rolls off into the water.
Not for me. View be damned. Think Malibu.
XO
WWW

e said...

I agree with Nick regarding cliffs, though I've seen this done countless times in various places I've lived or visited. People never seem to learn.

I thought I was safe here, too, until the property developed subsidence sinkholes and the flat had to be completely gutted while specialised grouting was poured into the foundation to shore up the building. The floors are not level now, so I can be sitting still and start to roll...

Cheers Nick and best to Heather and Jenny.

Grannymar said...

Cliff tops or flood plains are not for me. I live on a hill, well the top of the hill was sliced off to build this small estate of twenty bungalows. I look down over a valley and for years watched it flood with winter rain. The river running through the valley was dredged or whatever they do to it and things have improved a little.

I think with the way the weather is changing I'll stay where I am and by the time the water reaches me I should have the Arc built!

Liz said...

It must have been anticipated for the price to be so low!

Nick said...

www - My thoughts exactly. What if I was in the house when the ground collapsed underneath it?

e - True, people still keep building houses on cliffs despite the obvious danger. That sounds like a serious problem you had in your flat. Glad to hear you managed to solve it (apart from the funny floors that is).

Grannymar - Up on the hill seems like the best place to be. Building on flood plains is completely idiotic.

Liz - It was. In fact the utilities were cut off ten years ago when another part of the cliff collapsed.

Megan said...

The canyons here are constantly threatened by fires, floods, and the like (fires especially). But nothing appears to discourage folks from living in them.

You couldn't pay me enough to live in a canyon in this part of the world. Privacy, shmivacy, I'd rather not have to evacuate.

(says she who lives near the San Andreas fault)

Nick said...

Megan - Some people are blithely unconcerned about the dangers of the place they live. Especially if it's somewhere so scenic they just HAVE to live there. Of course I'm sure you've weighed up the risks of your own location very very carefully....

Nick said...

Our broadband connection just failed again, the second time in four days. My apologies if I can't reply to comments for a while.

Quickroute said...

Florida in the USA has been 'cliff' stricken in another way i.e. Hurricanes with massive property damage - I'll stick to the city thanks

Internet problems here too - cyber attacks maybe?

Nick said...

Quicky - I wouldn't want to live in a hurricane-prone area either. Why expose myself to that constant jeopardy?

Rummuser said...

When we bought the home that we now live in twenty years ago, it was a quiet little place. Today, it has become a premium locality with all its attendant problems like increased traffic, pollution and noise. Some things that I never anticipated at the time of buying the place. I intend writing a post about it soon.

Nick said...

Ramana - So many people could tell the same story! Developers care nothing for quiet seclusion, they just want to throw up as many profitable homes as possible, whatever the consequences.

tattytiara said...

My boyfriend was just questioning the logic of people who build by the steep embankments along the river valley where he lives the other day. We both agreed that if you can afford land like that, you can afford to build a house way back from the edge that's tall enough to still give you the same view.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

California has had similar issues here this winter. The little town of Pacifica, 12 miles south of San Francisco, has had several cliffside residences including apartment buildings evacuated because they're falling into the sea. For months, they have been hauling in huge boulders to shore up the cliffs to no avail. Living on the edge of a continent is romantic, but just a tad risky.

Nick said...

Tattytiara - Building next to a steep embankment is just crazy. Landslides are commonplace, particularly where trees and undergrowth have been chopped down, destabilising the soil.

Heart - Not so romantic when your idyllic home starts crumbling away. Probably the safest cliffside home is a lighthouse, which is designed to stay put whatever the conditions!

Megan said...

My parents once had some serious discussions about buying and living in a lighthouse. I wonder what THAT childhood would have been like?

Nick said...

Megan - That would have been an amazing experience. You would probably have got pretty fed up with the isolation, I guess.

Suburbia said...

I can understand why people take the risk, scary thought tho'

Nick said...

Suburbia - Too scary for me, I wouldn't fancy being woken in the night by the house caving in.

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Le Loup said...

As you say it is a problem, and in some areas historic buildings are under threat. But the ground can be stabalised and repaired, it is a matter of money for local councils, and for private land owners but I think it would be worth trying to repair the ground one's self if you are still fit enough.

Nick said...

Le Loup - I'm not sure that in this case the ground could be stabilised, it's very fragile and collapsing quite easily.