Couple forced to flee £850k Norfolk Broads cottage that started to sink overnight

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
A couple discovered their cottage on the Norfolk Broads sinking (SWNS)

A devastated couple have been forced to flee their idyllic £850,000 riverside cottage after they woke up to find it had started sinking overnight.

Ken Pitts and wife Gail, who have been married for 41 years, discovered to their horror that their thatched home on the River Bure at Horning in Norfolk had developed a severe tilt around three months ago.

Neighbours have claimed the 1970s-built cottage started sinking shortly after it was re-thatched because wooden pile foundations had broken under the weight.

The couple have now been forced to move out of their home of 17 years while they wait to find out whether it will have to be demolished.

Signs have been erected around the property with the words 'Danger; Unsafe."

The site of their reed-thatched home leaning significantly to one side has caused a stir among locals and passers-by (SWNS)

Ken said there had been no warning signs that the west side of their home starting to sink and that it simply happened "overnight", leaving them "devastated".

He and his wife declined to speak further and said they are working with their insurers to try and find a resolution.

The site of their reed-thatched home leaning significantly to one side has caused a stir among locals and passers-by.

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Some locals took to Facebook to express their concern for the couple.

Local Maggie Tuck said: "I heard one end was steel piles the other was old wooden piles . It's the wood piles that have collapsed.

"They are going to take off the thatch to save it and then demolish . Very sad."

Signs have been erected around the property with the words 'Danger; Unsafe' (SWNS)

Sally Blackburn added wrote: "We passed this last week and I actually couldn't bear to look at it, too upsetting!"

Viv Garner added: "I used to dream of living there when I was a child. So sad to see this."

A Broads Authority spokesperson said: "It is a huge shame that this lovely cottage appears to be in such a precarious position.

"Unfortunately it is something that can be an ongoing danger for properties built on unstable ground.

"We wish the owners all the best as they assess what can be done.

"If the cottage is within our area as a planning authority we would offer free pre-planning advice should this be needed in the future."

The three-bedroom house offers a large garden with a river frontage, along with allocated boat mooring and fishing opportunities (SWNS)

Building surveyor at North & Hawkins Building Consultancy, Tom North, 40, said he believed something was “going on underground”.

He added: "Obviously the area is extremely wet and most of those properties, and certainly the old ones, will have timber pile foundations which will be driven down to the ground.

"One possibility is the house may have timber pile foundations and the timber piles may have broken because the ground below has shifted or has decayed and deteriorated. Because the timber piles have broken it may be imposed by the mass and isn't able to support it anymore.

"It is similar to a rock on top of a wet sponge.

"You can put new foundations in. The questions is whether you try and stabilise it. Sometimes you don't want to risk the damage it may cause."