East Anglia's "disadvantaged" most at risk from climate change, warns new report - as EA prepares for flooding exercises from King's Lynn to Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:15 07 March 2011 | UPDATED: 12:55 07 March 2011

Drivers battle through flooded roads on Great Yarmouth's North Quay, in September 2006. Picture: Andy Darnell.

Drivers battle through flooded roads on Great Yarmouth's North Quay, in September 2006. Picture: Andy Darnell.

Archant © 2006

East Anglia's coastline is among the most vulnerable to climate change, warns a report out today - increasing the risk to "disadvantaged communities" from rising sea levels.

Testing Norfolk’s defences

Norfolk’s response to river and coastal flooding will be tested as part of Exercise Watermark tomorrow and on Wednesday.

At King’s Lynn, the EA will be closing the flood gates protecting hundreds of riverside properties around Common Staithe Quay tomorrow, while staff will be on hand to explain how they plan to cope with the threat of a flood caused by a storm surge in The Wash.

At Sea Palling, the EA will show flood wardens, parish councillors and police how to operate the village’s flood defences, which help protect 1200 homes from flooding.

At Great Yarmouth, the EA will be testing how quickly staff can close the flood gates protecting more than 6,000 homes from a tidal surge up the River Yare.

At Wells the flood gates will be tested using both mains power and a back-up generator to simulate a power failure. EA staff will be on-site from 9.30am - 1pm to explain how the defences work.

At Potter Heigham, EA staff will be demonstrating the barrier which protects coarse fish in the Yare from salt tides.

It comes as the Environment Agency and emergency services across the region prepare to join Britain’s biggest-ever flood defence exercise.

The report, by influential think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is one of the first to examine the social aspects of climate change as well as its physical impacts on our coastline.

It warns sea levels could rise between one and two metres by the latter half of this century, while extreme weather events like storm surges and flooding will become more common.

Researchers say that means vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly living in coastal and low-lying areas are risk from not only flooding but financial consequences such as the increasing cost of insuring their homes.

“There’s a gap in the market, no-one’s really looking at these issues which is why we’ve launched this programme,” said the foundation’s Abigail Scot Paul.

The research pinpoints Great Yarmouth as one of the most vulnerable areas of the country.

It says the town is “an urban port community that experiences relatively high levels of unemployment”.

It adds: “The local economy is strongly connected to the sea both through shipping activities via the redeveloping port and through tourists attracted by its coastal location and associated amenities.

“It is also home to a high proportion of elderly and retired individuals.”

The Joseph Rowntree report notes “a poor level of awareness” among those groups about climate change and its impacts on Yarmouth.

“Many vulnerable coastal communities and their local authorities (and possibly elsewhere) may need high levels of support,” it warns. “Including funding, from central government if they are to successfully adapt to a changing climate and reduce the risks they face.”

On Wednesday, the town will join communities across East Anglia taking part in Operation Watermark - an exercise designed to test the emergency services’ response to the threat of serious flooding.

For full story, see tomorrow’s EDP.

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