Hastings residents left homeless after catastrophic landslide at beauty spot

Residents affected by a landslide at Old Roar Gill are asking for urgent talks with Hastings Borough Council to prevent more land being lost and homes damaged.

Ralitsa Hiteva’s family have been forced to leave their Foxcote home after tonnes of earth crashed into their garden just yards away from their door.

She told us: “We were told we were not allowed to stay in the property and have no idea if we will ever be able to return to our home. We are trying to find a place to live.”

Recounting how the incident unfolded, she said: “This started on the banks of the Old Roar Gill on February 14. It has been ongoing and has so far consumed the bank of the Gill, all the trees that were on it, the entirety of the path that was between our properties and the Gill and is now 25 metres into our garden.

"Hastings Brough Council issued myself and my neighbour an emergency order which means we are not allowed to live in the property until remedial work is carried out to strengthen the foundations. But this cannot take place until the banks of the Gill are strengthened. Until that happens the landslide will still be active and will effect a much wider area.

In a statement to residents and members of the Old Roar Gill Landslip Facebook community, Hastings Borough Council has said it does not own the land affected. Yet on the Council’s own website it clearly states that Old Roar Gill and the surrounding Coronation Wood is ‘owned by Hastings Borough Council’.

Ralitsa said: "We desperately need a conversation with Hastings Borough Council as the evidence they have provided is insufficient. There are a lot of questions as to why they are taking this approach and allowing the landslide to continue. The Council is not taking responsibility for the fact that it started on their land. Why did they not have a plan to protect the Gill and the families that live around it. Hastings Borough Council has been maintaining for the past three days that they are helping residents and trying to find emergency accommodation, however that has not been our experience. We were just given a number for a department that deals with homelessness and when we contacted them we were told they do not have the properties available that could accommodate us. We understand that its not that they don’t want to help, they are just unable to.

"We have been through a very traumatic thing and we cannot imagine having to be separated from our two dogs and the Ukrainian refugee who has been staying with us for more than a year. This nhas been her home since the first day that she came to the UK.

“The insurance company won’t pay. Landslides are covered but only when the main building is damaged. The landslide is moving toward our house but at this point we cannot see any physical damage and that puts us in a terrible position.”

Hastings Borough Council claim that the landslip actually started on private land above the gill, but residents claim they have so far not provided any evidence to prove that this is the case.

Residents say that so far, two independent experts, one structural and one geotechnical engineer, have assessed the landslip. Both expert opinions state that the landslip started on the banks of the gill on Hastings Borough Council land.

The statement Hastings Borough Council made to affected residents reads: “Following on from last week’s updates on the landslip at Old Roar Gill, letters have been hand delivered to residents affected in Foxcote and Penhurst Close updating on the latest situation.

"We have now received a preliminary geological survey that has identified that the slippage occurred from the land above the Gill outside of the land in the council's ownership. The initial slope stability exercise has identified that the slip circles appear to be very close to the nearest house foundation. The dimensions do vary between the properties. These results would however need to be corroborated by a geotechnical engineer following a ground investigation.

"As this is not council owned land, the council cannot act further in this matter. We have advised the residents that it is the responsibility of the landowner to inform their insurance company of this potential risk to the house foundations and request that they attend urgently to carry out further investigations. In line with our duties under the Housing Act 2004, we must also assess whether the properties are safe to occupy until further the investigations are carried out by the insurance companies. This may result in a prohibition order being imposed, until the risk to persons can be mitigated or further information becomes available to confirm the properties are safe to occupy. In these circumstances, residents would have to find alternative accommodation until the property is safe for the order to be lifted. If residents are unable to find alternative accommodation, the council will seek to provide this.”