Coastal communities ‘not economically viable’ to save from sea, report claims

Southwold HarbourPHOTO: Nick Butcher

Southwold HarbourPHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Coastal communities across East Anglia could be abandoned to the sea after government advisors questioned whether it is economically viable to save them.

A report from the Committee for Climate Change warned 90 miles of English coastline are likely to be abandoned within several decades.

The committee have called for a new long-term approach to coastal management, with experts warning sea levels around the UK are likely to increase by one metre or more as early as 2100.

With flood defences, infrastructure and the future of coastal communities already under significant pressure from flooding and erosion, the 'Managing the coast in a changing climate' report warns it is not 'viable' to save many coastal communities.

In their recommendations to the government, the committee have called for plans to manage the coastline which are 'realistic and sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms.'

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Professor Jim Hall, committee's expert on flooding and coastal erosion, said: 'As the climate changes, the current approach to protecting the English coastline is not fit for purpose.

'It is time people woke up to the very real challenges ahead.

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'As sea levels rise and flooding and erosion get worse, we have assessed that current plans for around 90 miles of the coastline are not cost-beneficial to implement.

'The government and local authorities need to talk honestly with those affected about the difficult choices they face.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said that he believed larger coastal communities, like Lowestoft, would continue to be protected under the proposals.

He said: 'My interpretation of the report is that for larger towns and settlements it is not so much of an issue.

'So towns like Lowestoft, with businesses and lots of people living there, will have flood defences. It is not saying 'forget about Lowestoft'.

'This is highlighting the isolated houses and individual properties along the coast, such as between Benacre and Southwold and in north Norfolk.

'It is posing the question as to whether they should continue to defend those houses and small villages.

'There are good local flood defence schemes and groups like Kessingland Parish Council's because they know if nothing is done it will be lost to the sea.'

Cllr Andy Smith, speaking on behalf of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils, welcomed the report.

He said: 'This report is a positive step and demonstrates the need for a clear, long-term vision to manage our coastline, and for coherent policies across government to deliver this.

'It is essential that funding is made available to local councils to support a long-term approach. This will help coastal areas and communities to adapt to climate change, while safeguarding those areas at critical risk from flooding and erosion.

'We need to make sure the we are managing the coast as a whole, accounting for undefended areas and those in need of re-alignment, alongside those areas currently defended from coastal erosion and flooding which are highlighted in this report.

'Local authorities have a vital role to play alongside national government on these issues, in order to make sure that our coastal communities remain safe and secure from climate change for generations to come.'

Cllr Smith is also chairman of the Local Government Association's Coastal Special Interest Group.

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