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Hemsby to be test ground for trial using role play to break bad news

PUBLISHED: 16:45 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 19 September 2019

An aerial view of the coastal erosion at Hemsby beach. Photo: BlueSky UAV Specialists

An aerial view of the coastal erosion at Hemsby beach. Photo: BlueSky UAV Specialists

BlueSky UAV Specialists

An erosion-threatened seaside village is being used as a testing ground for ways to deliver "bad news" to communities that will no longer be protected from the sea.

Clifftop homes at risk on the Hemsby Coastline. Picture: Denise BradleyClifftop homes at risk on the Hemsby Coastline. Picture: Denise Bradley

Role play, story-telling and visualisation are all touted as ways to help communities facing difficult decisions as coastlines crumble.

Hemsby and Caterham Hill in Surrey are trialling methods that will help Government agencies and people living in flood-risk communities to have "difficult conversations."

An Environment Agency report cites examples where a people's opera, poetry, and storytelling have been used to engage at risk communities, and warns that worst case scenario climate predictions would mean even less protection for homes.

Ian Brennan, chairman of Save Hemsby Coastline, said the charity's focus was still on getting physical defences for Hemsby, the first choice being a rock berm.

He said Hemsby's involvement in the trial in no way meant it was ready to settle for any form of "adaptation", like relocating homes.

The village's role, he said was to help develop tools that could be used nationwide, helping Government agencies and officials more than householders on the brink of losing their homes.

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"I do not see much value in it for ordinary people," he said.

"They are talking about role play and that's not going to go down well with normal people that want to talk about sea defences, and that's not a good story no matter how you want to dress it up.

"I can understand where they are coming from but it is more for the agencies.

"For us it's about buying time."

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "We are working with communities and experts to ensure that there is the best possible evidence about the effects of the climate emergency and how to tackle it effectively.

"Trialling engagement methods is just one part of a much wider project to understand how climate change is likely to affect communities and how we will work alongside them and local authorities to address these challenges.

"Hemsby was put forward by Coastal Partnership East as a trial area as it faces complex coastal risk which requires multiple partners to work together to address many challenges in the context of climate change.

"The Environment Agency has commissioned the consultants to undertake this work at this location - and elsewhere - and is supportive of the approach."

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