Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 13:58 UK

Coastal erosion threatens homes

The view from Reg Bratt's garden
Reg Bratt's garden is protected by a sea wall he built 30 years ago

The owners of about 40 homes perched on a cliff top in Dorset have been told their houses are at risk of falling into the sea over the next 20 years.

The residents, in the Old Castle Road area of Weymouth, have already had part of their gardens fall into the sea.

A survey to assess the risk was carried out by coastal engineers from the local authority following recent landslips.

Because the cliff is part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, the government policy is for no intervention.

A further 30 homes are at risk over the next 150 years, the report said.

In 1978, I started building a wall, with no plans of what I was going to do, I just knew that I had to build a wall
Reg Bratt

One resident, 90-year-old Reg Bratt, started building his own wall against the erosion 30 years ago.

"In 1978, I started building a wall, with no plans of what I was going to do," he said.

"I just knew that I had to build a wall. I built massive buttresses, supporting the cliff and the wall just went up."

Mr Bratt said he had not had any problems since, but some of his neighbours had.

David Webber had to buy his home outright when he moved to the road three years ago because he could not get a mortgage for the property.

He thought the problem would not affect him during his lifetime.

Reg Bratt's concrete wall to protect his garden
Reg Bratt's defence wall has stopped his garden crumbling into the sea

"About two years ago we had very very heavy rainfall, and that completely saturated the earth and we had some drop off - about a foot dropped off, which was alarming," he said.

However, the residents said house sales had not yet been affected and people had not had problems getting their homes insured.

A Weymouth and Portland Borough Council spokesperson said councillors were trying to change the government's policy of no intervention.

Councillor Doug Hollings said: "I think we must try and protect, obviously, the areas where the most valued assets are. And that's obviously people's properties."

The residents will have the chance to study the survey in-depth next month.

Meanwhile the council has applied to the Environment Agency for money to carry out another, even more detailed, survey.

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