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Sunday, November 15, 1998 Published at 18:18 GMT


Race to save lighthouse from sea

Coastal erosion is a major problem on England's southern coast

An historic lighthouse perched on the edge of a rapidly crumbling cliff could be saved from the sea by being moved inland.

Owners Mark and Louise Roberts are racing to save the Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy Head, Sussex, after 30ft of land infront of the building fell into the English Channel.

[ image: The Belle Tout lighthouse as seen in the BBC's She Devil]
The Belle Tout lighthouse as seen in the BBC's She Devil
The decommissioned lighthouse was made famous as the setting for the BBC drama The Life and Loves of a She Devil.

A team of engineers begins work on Monday to shift the 165-year-old lighthouse 50ft further back from the edge of the cliff using a system of hydraulic lifts and rollers.

Mr Roberts said: "It has now become a total race against time. We either move the lighthouse back or Mother Nature will claim her.

"We're throwing everything we've got at it."

'Eerie feeling'

The Roberts bought it in December 1996 and converted it into a bed and breakfast.

They applied for a £200,000 lottery grant to save the lighthouse from coastal erosion, but it was denied so they have gone in search of corporate sponsors.

Mr Roberts said: "We will have 12 engineers on site from December and the building will be moved in February.

"When the cliff collapsed it was a very eerie feeling, because it was our worst nightmare come true."

The couple fled from the lighthouse with their nine-month-old daughter Haven and their dog Nessie on the night the cliff collapsed.

They are staying at a local farmhouse until the building is moved back to safe ground.

Another cliff fall is considered a certainty, leaving the Roberts a limited amount of time in which to save the Belle Tout.

A meeting between Mr Roberts and local businessmen on Monday is likely to secure the 150 cubic metres of concrete the project will need to begin the work of underpinning the lighthouse.

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