Protections for England’s coastal communities ‘not fit for purpose’

Climate change
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Government climate advisors have warned that a new strategy is urgently needed to tackle the expected impacts of climate change on England’s seaside towns.

In a new report, the Committee on Climate Change found that coastal communities, infrastructure and landscapes in England are already under significant pressure from flooding and erosion, with these threats set to increase in the future.

This problem is not currently being confronted with the required urgency or
openness, the Committee’s report showed, to the extent that some seaside towns and infrastructure are unlikely to be viable in their current form.

Professor Jim Hall, the 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’s time people woke up to the very real challenges ahead. As sea levels rise and flooding and erosion get worse, we have assessed that current plans for around 150 kilometres, or 90 miles, of the coastline are not cost-beneficial to implement.”

The issue has already affected the seaside sector over the past few years, with piers like Saltburn and Teignmouth left needing extensive repair after tidal surges left them damaged.

A section of the south west rail line was washed away in 2014 cutting off the service linking Cornwall and much of Devon with the rest of the UK for two months.

Just last month, flooding caused a hole six-foot wide and deep to open up under a section of the line at Teignmouth, causing disruption to services.

On Saturday last weekend, flood alerts were issued in the Yorkshire seaside resorts of Bridlington, Scarborough and Whitby, with people warned to look out for large wave along the coastline.

Climate change is expected to cause sea levels around the UK to rise by at least one metre as early as 2100, and the committee warned the government it has to take action now.

Hall added: “The Government and local authorities need to talk honestly with those affected about the difficult choices they face.

“Climate change is not going away: action is needed now to improve the way England’s coasts are managed today and in the future, to reduce the polluting emissions which cause climate change, and to prepare seaside communities for the realities of a warming world.”

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