The white Seven Sisters cliffs have featured in dozens of films including Atonement and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is slowly disappearing due to coastal erosion. Pic: National Trust

It is one of the country’s most famous views, attracting millions of visitors from across the world each year, but it could soon be lost for ever unless action is taken to shore up sea defences.

These old coastguard cottages in front of the white Seven Sisters cliffs have featured in dozens of films including Atonement and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And this month the sight was recognised as Britain’s Best View in a competition in the Daily Mail.

But the land on which the hamlet of cottages has stood for 200 years near Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex, is slowly disappearing due to coastal erosion.

For decades the descendants of the original coastguards have worked with officials to maintain the sea defences and stop the cottages being swept away.

But in 2011 a new policy of managed coastal retreat was introduced by the Government, which meant the Environment Agency no longer has responsibility for shoring up sea defences. Residents have lodged a planning application with the South Downs National Park Authority to extend a sea wall but say they are being held back by bureaucracy.

They say that unless they get help, the scheme could stay in the planning phase for years and the view could be lost.

Carolyn McCourt, 59, an artist who has lived in one of the cottages for nearly 30 years, said: ‘Each time a storm hits the shore, it causes a little bit more damage.’

The South Downs National Park Authority said an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required and it is now ‘awaiting a request from the applicant to determine the scope of the EIA’.

The five cottages – now converted into three homes – were built around 1820 for coastguards employed to help tackle smugglers after the Napoleonic wars.

© Daily Mail