26 November 1999

Pig producer sunk by coastal erosion

By David Green

A YORKS-BASED pig producer has become the UKs first farmer to have his business killed off by coastal erosion.

But Shawn Mars and his wife Yvonne stand to receive no compensation. Their plight emerged this week as sea defences protecting agricultural land along the east coast of England took a battering from seas whipped up by northerly winds.

The couple ran a 120-sow herd on clifftop land at Cowden, Yorks.

When they took over Cliff House Farm 10 years ago, the North Sea was 120m (130 yards) away from their home and piggeries.

Today the cliff edge is less than 18.5m (20 yards) away and the farm buildings are being dismantled to prevent them falling onto the shore.

The pigs were sold four months ago when the access track became too dangerous for feed lorries. The farmhouse itself is likely to be habitable for only a few more months.

Earlier this year, a land tribunal rejected Mr and Mrs Mars submission that new sea defence groynes, built a short distance up the coast at Mappleton, had increased the rate of erosion of the cliffs protecting their home and livelihood.

"The groynes prevent the north-south drift of sand which used to be deposited at the foot of the cliffs and reduce the impact of the waves," said Mrs Mars.

"In the first year after the arrival of the groynes we lost 40 metres of cliff."

The couple have been told that not only is there no compensation available, they will have to bear the cost of dismantling the piggeries and the farmhouse.

Mr and Mrs Mars say they will shortly become homeless yet will have to go on repaying the mortgage loan they took out 10 years ago to buy the farm.

MAFF is considering the introduction of a system for compensating owners whose land is abandoned to the sea, but it is likely to apply only to low-lying land. &#42