Owners of the iconic cottages which overlook the Seven Sisters say they need £1m to save them from the sea.
They have starred in countless films and television, from Atonement and Harry Potter, but Cuckmere Haven SOS (Save Our Shores) says if they don’t act soon the world-famous buildings will be lost forever.
They say repairing an old sea wall, critically damaged by storms in 2013 and 2014 is the last chance to protect the coastguard cottages.
Lucy Mutter, who owns one of the cottages, said, “It’s the kingpin of our defences, if that gets destroyed our walls could be compromised.
“With climate change, tides will be higher, storms will be more frequent.”
The environment agency, which built the wall, says it is now up to residents to save it.
They have raised about £50,000 which is going towards the planning application to the South Downs National Park.
But the charity is also calling on the public’s help for the extra funds needed.
Though the cottages are primarily used as holiday homes, with only one full-time resident, Lucy said, “It’s more than that to us. My grandfather was the last coastguard, its been in the family for generations.
“Occasional people will say ‘they are not going to be there forever, just let them go’. I think that’s very defeatist.
“It’s not what we are about, we want to help them survive as long as possible.
“If we do this work they could survive decades. Most buildings like this are owned by big organisations like the National Trust that have the funds to look after them.
“They bring a lot of tourism to the region. We have got this huge responsibility on our shoulders to protect them, and have done for 75 years.”
This comes as researchers including from the University of Brighton say rising sea levels and extreme weather events are threatening to overwhelm coastal defences in the UK.
Dr Raymond Ward, lecturer in physical geography, said, “In the South East the sea level is currently 21cm higher than in 1901 and is rising by 4mm per year, but predictions are that the rate of rise will increase over the next 20, 50 and 100 years.
“Climate change is exceptionally serious here. If you get a big storm surge and the sea level is higher, it could overwhelm our current defences.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said it is investing £2.6 billion in flood and coastal erosion protection between 2015 and 2021.
They said, “We do not believe there is an increased flood-risk at Cuckmere. When necessary, however, we will clear shingle from the mouth of the river to reduce flood-risk to properties, but it’s not as simple as saying clearing the shingle reduces the chances of flooding.
“All the time we interfere, we’re preventing the area from returning to its natural state.”