Changing face of Birling Gap

BIRLING GAP SUS-140319-152239001
BIRLING GAP SUS-140319-152239001

Work has started to demolish one of the Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap after the building was left teetering on the cliff edge by recent erosion.

More than three metres of chalky white rock has crumbled into the waters below during stormy months at the beginning of the year, leaving the end property just six inches from the edge.

A five-strong team of builders have begun the four weeks’ worth of work to knock down the cottage, while preserving the neighbouring properties.

Mark Hodgson, contracts director at Best Demolition – the company carrying out the work, said, “To take a house down normally is a fairly simple process but in this environment, we have to totally change our methodology.

“Work will be carried out mainly from large cherry pickers, so we don’t have to put anyone on the ground around the outside of the building. On a daily basis we’ll check the cliff for any additional collapses.

“We will have to cut through the building to carry out the protection work to number four. We’ll then strip the roof off and bring all the walls down by hand and slowly, methodically work our way down from the top to the bottom.”

This property will be the third of seven original coastguard cottages to be knocked down due to erosion – the previous two being in 1994 and the early 2000s.

It is estimated the property left at the end of the terrace once this demolition work is complete will only have up to 10 years before it too succumbs to erosion.

Already this year, the sun lounge and ice-cream parlour at the nearby Birling Gap café has been demolished while the Birling Gap Safety Boat Association has been forced to stop operating after their boathouse and crane track were affected by the excessive erosion. Picture by Eddie Mitchell