July 2007 – Future Coast

Future Coast – Organised and Sustainable or Chaotic and Dying?

We are an island Nation, no matter where we work live or play we can never be more than app. 75miles from the sea. We are one of the greatest Maritime Nations on earth. No longer the largest but certainly among the greatest.

The sea and our relationship with it has, arguably, shaped and moulded us as a people over many centuries. It is very much part of the British psyche.

The UK coastline is more than 19,000kms long. It is an environment of huge diversity and contrast. The coastal zone supports a large proportion of the population, 16.9 million. Our management of the coast has to strike an equable and sustainable balance between competing interests and objectives ie:

  1. Protecting vulnerable communities from the ravages of coastal erosion and sea flooding
  2. Ensuring sustainable economic development
  3. Providing a sound basis for tourism and recreation
  4. Protect the ecology of the coastal zone

The balancing act to achieve these four objectives may well be difficult but it is not impossible.

An added difficulty is their achievment against a backdrop of considerable uncertainty and wildly varying projections of what effect global warming, climate change and sea level rise holds for us over the coming century.

It is absolutely crucial if only for the sake of future generations that we adopt adequate and effective management structures and policies NOW capable of working through the coming problems in a sustainable way.

This begs some questions:

  1. Do we have effective management structures and policies in place now ? It is my earnest belief that we do not.
  2. Are we about to put effective management structures and policies in place? Again it is my belief that we are not.
  3. Are we going to continue the massive underfunding of the coast ? Yes all the evidence eminating from Government shows that we are set to continue coast management by default for fiscal rather than sound coast management rationale.

For some years now the Civil Engineering fraternity, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Local Authorities and various other groups have been warning Government much more needs to be spent on Flood Managament Infrastructure. Those warnings have largely gone unheeded. It is undeniable that Government has increased the annual budget but by nowhere near enough. The result of that unwillingness to invest at an appropriate level is clear for all to see in Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire et al.

Along with this many Maritime Authorities and again the Civil Engineering fraternity as well as other experts and groups have repeatedly flagged up and warned Government against continuing the massive underfunding of the coast and it’s infrastructure.

Unfortunately to no avail!

In recent and consecutive years the coast protection budget allocation has been reduced and reduced.

By way of example the 2005/6 “Flood and Coast Protection” budget was £570,000,000 of which only £47,000,000 was allocated to be shared by some 92 Maritime Authorities for coast protection. This year I believe the total budget is some £600,000,000 of which only £46,000,000 is allocated to Maritime Authorities for coast protection.

This is not accidental it is by design. Some years ago DEFRA launched it’s second generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) programme, these SMPs are designed to legitimise the underfunding. So confident were DEFRA that this would just happen they closed their regional coast protection offices. Obviously if you intend to effectively walk away from the coast and reduce the funding you do not need regional offices to oversee any coast protection works as there will not be any!

Whilst fluvial protection and coast protection have very different drivers and solutions the comparison is clear for all to see. Lack of funding is just as lethal in both areas. There is of course at least one difference in fluvial and coastal outcomes. Rarely is property loss total in fluvial areas but on eroding coasts total loss is the inevitable outcome for homes, businesses etc as a direct result of the withdrawal of support from Central Government with inadequate funding and policies.

What is it about the British Government and Civil Service that they choose to ignore all advice ( other than that which fits in with their lack of commitment) and wait for the cataclysmic event to happen with all the human misery and suffering it brings whilst eventually forcing them on to a more sensible, sustainable policy and funding path ?

I truly believe that time is running out on the coast, we are at a crossroads, the choice of future coast needs to be made without further delay. It really is make your mind up time.

Future Coast can be either:

  1. Organised, successfuly managed and sustainable
  2. Chaotic and dying on it’s feet

If it is to be option 1 then we need to embrace fully the EU recommended way forward, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy path with adequate funding. Result living working sustainable coast well into this century. If it is to be option 2 then all we need to do is carry on as we are and watch Central Government, Ministers and the Treasury fiddle while Rome burns.

Malcolm Kerby (25 July 2007)

July 2007 – wider comments

In common with many people and communities around the UK and beyond I would like to extend the sympathy and good wishes of Happisburgh to everyone who has suffered so cruelly from the major flooding incidents in recent times. We understand perhaps more than many the anguish and devastation of losing ones home and/or belongings. Yet again our deepest gratitude is due to the emergency services and armed forces who have to pick up the pieces.

Whenever such cataclysmic events occur there always seems to be a search for someone, anyone, to blame. Whilst the sheer scale of recent flooding has been immense it was as a result of really quite exceptional rainfall and weather patterns. Maybe an indication of what could be in store for us all with increasing global warming and climate change.

Could we have done more over the last quarter of a century to bring the infrastructure of both fluvial flood and coast protection up to a more acceptable operational standard? Yes of course we could and should!

Why are we constantly told by Central Government resources (money) are finite and we simply can not afford to do the job adequately or properly?

We, the people, really must bring Government to book on this. How can we not afford to spend our own money(taxes) on our own protection in both fluvial and coast protection terms yet our Government deems we can afford such hare brained projects as the Millienium Dome, an extremely questionable incursion into the middle east and the 2012 Olympics which we patently can not afford. These three items alone will cost the taxpayer (you and me) many, many BILLIONS of pounds. Along with that much has been handed out around the world in foreign aid.

All of which may be highly laudible but surely can only come (if we can afford it) AFTER the Government has invested OUR MONEY in making us as safe and secure from the elements and climate change as is humanly possible in our own HOMES AND COMMUNITIES.

Malcolm Kerby (25 July 2007)

July 2007 Comments – Selsey Sea Wall

Two pictures of yet another crisis in a coastal community. As can be seen the sea wall at Selsey has collapsed and created app. 40 metre gap.

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Obviously this needs repair as a matter of urgency. However I fear the financial problems will prove greater than the technical problems to overcome.

With Central Government effectively walking away from the coast how on earth will this or indeed any other Maritime Authority in a similar situation be able to cope financially.

The longer remedial action takes the worse (and more expensive) the solution will be. Unfortunately those with absolute responsibility, DEFRA, are busy trying to build a different kind of barrier. One which attempts to put not only the Maritime Authorities but now the Environment Agency between us (the problem) and them.

Typicaly British Civil Service, make the situation so complicated they can get away with doing nothing except talk about the problems for ever and dream up the most obscure ways forward. Anything except address the problem effectively at an early and cost effective stage.

It will be interesting to see what happens at Selsey against the backdrop of the upcoming second generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for this area and Central Government’s aversion to and perpetual underfunding of the coast.

Malcolm Kerby (22 July 2007)

June 2007 Comments

The Tyne to Flamborough Head Second Generation Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) is now coming up for acceptance or rejection by all the Local Authorities (LAs) throughout that coastal strip, a large area involving a number of different authorities.

Scarborough Borough Council is the Lead Authority on this SMP2. I was particularly disappointed to read a recent article in the newspaper Scarborough Today reporting that John Riby, head of engineering services at Scarborough Council is recommending to the elected members that they vote to adopt SMP2 saying that to do otherwise may put future funding for defences in jeopardy.

I would most strongly urge the elected members of all The LAs involved to look closely at the North Norfolk experience where our proposed SMP2 clearly stated that the defences between Sea Palling and Winterton, which protect the northern Norfolk Broads area, would be maintained for the next 100 years by annual beach recharge. Yet almost before the ink was dry on the SMP document funding for that area was withdrawn, significantly increasing the risk of a breach.

It is my absolute belief that it is completely wrong that DEFRA insists on trying to push SMP2s anywhere else in this country until the enormous problems the Pilot SMP2s revealed are resolved.

The most contentious of course is the complete lack of Social Justice within these plans.

I also believe that any elected member who votes to adopt any SMP2 which has no Social Justice measures built into it could be doing his or her electorate a major disservice.

Government is trying to force through SMP2s to minimise future spend on coast defences.

The SMP2 for this area, which we have rejected, significantly inreased risk to the built and natural environment with absolutely no measures in place or recommended to mitigate that risk for communities or individuals (Social Justice) and is therefore absolutely unsustainable.

Climate change and global warming are with us and there no doubt will be changes in our coast over the coming years. We should not be frightened of it nor should we shrink from addressing it.

New innovative policies and approaches will have to be found which must be firmly rooted in a socially just framework only then will they be sustainable.

Currently plans such as the Tyne to Flamborough Head SMP2 are bedevilled with old thinking dusted off to appear new and without Social Justice will completely disenfranchise an increasing number of people and communities.

I would suggest we must not allow that to happen, currently the best way to achieve that and protect all our coastal futures is to reject these incomplete Second Generation Shoreline Management Plans.

Malcolm Kerby (01 June 2007)