‘Sleeping tiger prodded’

Byline: By Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 14 February 2005)

Stunned villagers watched a large slice of their historic clifftop community get swallowed by the sea at the weekend.

It was a table top exercise projected on to a screen in the sanctuary of the parish church at Overstrand.

But the prospect of homes and businesses being lost to coastal erosion could become a chilling reality if a controversial new sea defence strategy gets the go-ahead.

A draft shoreline management plan (SMP) from Kelling to Lowestoft Ness has already sparked anger by seeking to abandon many long-standing sea defences to create a more natural coastline – but at the high price of losing £250m worth of property.

More than 250 Overstrand residents attended the meeting to find out how it affected them, their homes and their businesses.

They were told their picture postcard village had become a carbunkle promontory, which needed to be planed off the map to allow sand to reach beaches further round the coast.

Local streets are lined with fine villas and houses from the Victorian heyday of a place tagged the village of millionaires, whose VIP visitors have included Sir Winston Churchill.

But the sea defences which have shored up the soft cliffs beneath architectural gems are set to be sacrificed under the new SMP.

Over the next 100 years it would see Overstrand lose up to 135 homes and 10 commercial properties, including a pub, hotel, and caravan park.

Erosion lines drawn on to a street map starkly showed the sea chewing off a large chunk of the historic heart of the village stretching back from its popular clifftop café.

Among those raising concerns were Robert and Lorraine Love, of Fakenham, who said they had bought a £167,000 building plot at Paul’s Lane, where they hoped to build their dream home but now wondered if it had become a white elephant.

Meeting presenter Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Coastal Concerns Action Group (CCAG), said: “You have become a carbunkle.”

He said experts reckoned Overstrand’s defences were stopping 20pc of sediment moving along the coast, where it was needed to bolster other beaches.

They advocated returning to natural processes, but Mr Kerby said: “That would be OK if they had not interfered 50 years ago.

“People bought properties behind defences, with the inherent promise they could be maintained.”

Not to do so now was a breach of their human rights.

Mr Kerby said the plan was a “carve up” rooted in the Government’s unwillingness to spend money on coastal defences – as evidenced by next year’s £570m flood and coastal spending, with £47m going to sea defences.

A show of hands indicated huge opposition to the SMP.

After the meeting, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said similar concerns had been raised at a recent meeting in Mundesley – another well-established holiday village whose defences were set to be eroded under the plan.

Yesterday Cliff Top Café customers said they were appalled at the plans to abandon defences, and were signing a petition on the counter.

Owner Sylvia Williams said she was angry, having bought the business and home next door three years ago, but was determined to fight on, adding “the British don’t give in.”

Mr Kerby said while the CCAG home village of Happisburgh was used to years of fighting for defences, it was new to Overstrand and Mundesley – and quite a shock for the residents.

But having seen the opposition, particularly at Overstrand where they already had a well-organised newsletter, he felt the SMP had “prodded a sleeping tiger.”

Speak up and we’ll be heard

Byline: By Edward Foss (Eastern Daily Press, 09 February 2005)

If enough people speak up about a controversial coastal plan, which effectively abandons parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, it will “fire a massive shot over the bows of Westminster”

That was the message last night as the first of four meetings run by the Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG) was launched – with people told it was absolutely vital they took part in consultation about the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). The meetings will continue later in the week at Mundesley and Overstrand, with the final gathering at Bacton on Monday.

As about 200 people packed into St. Mary’s Church in Happisburgh last night, they were told repeatedly that each and every one of them must take personal responsibility and contribute to the consultation.

The draft plan effectively suggests changing from ‘hold the line’ to ‘managed retreat’ at all but the larger towns between Kelling and Lowestoft.

If it were to be introduced in its current form it would lead to the eventual abandonment of many established defences, resulting in £250m-worth of property being lost.

Last night’s meeting was organized bay CCAG co-ordinator Malcolm Kerby and featured contributions from villagers and politicians, including North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and his Tory adversary at the next election Iain Dale.

Explaining the importance of the four meetings, Mr Lamb said: “Both Malcolm Kerby and I felt this whole consultation process would glide by with those people directly affected not being involved at all.

“I think it is very important we get across just how concerned people are.

“Whatever they call this, it is effectively an abandonment of the coastline.”

Mr Kerby presented some of the projected scenarios for the area, which look as afr as 100 years ahead.

Indicating the north wall of the church, he said: “By 2055, the sea will be lapping that wall there.”

He went on to urge everyone present to complete a response to the consultation process.

Mr Kerby said adopting the plan would be like “taking a flying leap in the dark”.

“Let them know how it’s going to ruin your life, how it’s going to take away everything you worked your whole life for. Everything you own hinges on this,” he said.

“If there are four adults in your household, that means four letters.”

When he asked the audience to indicate if they would like to see the plan rejected, everyone in the church appeared to put their hand up.

Sue Stockton, the district councilor for the area, had earlier asked the audience if they would like her to vote against the plan when it came up for discussion at North Norfolk District Council later in the year. Again she appeared to have full support.

Jim Whiteside, who runs the CCAG website, said that because of the SMP he did not know what the future held and added: “I want my future back.”

He also said he felt the plan was designed to “bamboozle” ordinary people, meaning they would not respond to it because of its complexity.

Shoreline roadshows underway

The first in a series of roadshows explaining the shoreline management plan was held at Corton yesterday.

Under the controversial policies, a large proportion of the small parish will be lost in the next 100 years.

By 2105, a total of 90 houses will be lost, along with 25 businesses, seafront holiday sites, the coast road, Methodist church, village pub and village hall.

Exhibition organizer Terry Oakes said he hoped the session would help local people understand the proposals and provide a chance to have their say.

Terry Morris, whose home overlooks the sea defences, said: “I think it is a lost cause. People should accept these plans and concentrate of pressurising the Government for compensation.”

Those living on edge may get cash aid

Byline: By Richard Batson (Eastern Daily Press, 12 January 2005)

A glimmer of hope of compensation for people who lose homes and businesses if sea defences are abandoned has emerged from a top-level meeting.

Campaigners from North Norfolk who have been pressing for such payments say they are heartened that senior civil servants are at least considering the issue.

A delegation from the north of the county was among those attending a seminar of coastal defence experts and Government officials at Westminster.

Co-ordinator of the Coastal Concerns Action Group, Malcolm Kerby, said he was “greatly encouraged” that officials were looking at the compensation issue.

It is a key concern of people around the region’s coast where a new draft Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) from Kelling to Lowestoft would shift from a policy of hold the line to managed retreat.

That would lead to the abandonment of many established defences, and result in £250m-worth of property being lost to the sea over the next century.

That sum however was only “peanuts” in Government terms, and it was a basic bit of social justice to ensure that if people lost their homes and businesses under such a policy switch, they should be paid at least market value, said Mr Kerby.

The Government should also indemnify any buildings rendered uninsurable and whose value was hit by the change, which would remove the blight the new SMP had already caused along the coast, even in draft form.

Mr Kerby said it was good that laymen campaigners like himself could “sit down at the highest level and put across our points of view” but they were only “third of the way up the compensation hill”.

MP Norman Lamb said he was “heartened” by the debate, following earlier negative official responses about the prospects of compensation.

He would continue to press for compensation including possible ways of funding it, which could include a carbon levy as global warming was one of the factors increasing coastal erosion.

Officers and members of North Norfolk District Council were also at the seminar, along with representatives from the Yarmouth and Waveney areas also affected by the SMP.

Chief executive Philip Burton welcomed the meeting but felt it was a pity such a gathering had not happened earlier – before the launch of the SMP and subsequent public outcry.

In the past such plans had been driven by academic and scientific considerations, and a mistake had been not involving people earlier, to look at the consequences for, and get the views of, the communities affected.

The council was unlikely to be able to adopt the SMP as it stood, because there were too many uncertainties – including the issue of compensation, he added.

Coast campaign is stepped up

Byline: (Eastern Daily Press, 10 January 2005)

A coastal defence campaigner from Norfolk will make heart-felt pleas for protection, compensation and “social justice” when he puts the county’s views to a high-powered seminar in London today

Malcolm Kerby has been at the forefront of Happisburgh’s long but fruitless battle to get Government funding to repair its shattered sea defences, which have resulted in the loss of clifftop holiday homes.

He is also an outspoken critic of a new coastal management plan covering a much wider area, from Kelling to Lowestoft, which is set to change policy from “hold the line” to managed retreat – resulting in the loss of £250m worth of property over the next century.

Today he is among 100 delegates at a seminar hosted by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Government ministry responsible for flooding and erosion issues, which is looking at “governance.”

Mr Kerby said he would be calling for a single over-arching agency with enough funds to look after both inland flooding and coastal defence.

While Environment Minister Eliot Morley trumpeted Government spending of £570m, there was a vast imbalance towards inland flooding, which saw the Environment agency get £443m, while coastal authorities, such as North Norfolk District Council, only had a total pot of £54m “at the bottom of the pile.”

Mr Kerby said inland flooding rarely resulted in total loss of property, unlike coastal erosion.

“A handful of houses were lost at Boscastle, which attracted millions of pounds of aid and visits from top politicians – but Happisburgh has lost 26 properties to the sea in the last 15 years, and has received nothing,” he added.

The British response to the Asia tsunami disaster had been wonderful, but he felt that if the public also realised that destruction of homes was happening on a smaller scale on their doorstep they would also be appalled, said Mr Kerby.

He would also be pointing out the Government had a duty to protect people’s homes and family lives under the Bill of Human Rights.

If they chose to ignore that they should consider compensation, which might help remove the blight now affecting places earmarked to lose their defences under the new Shoreline Management Plan.

If a natural coastline was “in the national interest” people should get compensation, like they would if their land needed for airports and motorways in the national interest.

There was a need for “social justice”, and for Government to “square the circle” by providing compensation if it did not provide defences.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was also attending the seminar to keep himself informed of developments.

The issue of managed retreat still needed to be challenged and he would raise the compensation issue too.

He also aimed to use new Freedom of Information Act powers to check out Government claims that compensation had never been discussed.

Council leader against coastal plan

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

A senior politician has drawn a battle line in the sands of North Norfolk by pledging not to support a coastal plan which would “abandon” communities – unless full compensation is offered.

In a strongly worded statement, Simon Partridge, leader of North Norfolk District Council, voiced his concerns about the impact of the proposed new shoreline management plan (SMP), subject of several EDP reports in the last few weeks.

The plan, which will soon be put out to public consultation, proposes allowing hundreds of homes, tourist facilities and farmland to be given up to the sea between Kelling and Lowestoft over the next 100 years.

Some experts argue that this switch from hold the line to managed retreat is necessary because sea defences destroy coastlines in the long term, rather than save them.

Mr Partridge said he did not underestimate the impact of the SMP review and the difficult decisions the council would face. He added that the issue was arguably the most important in the district.

Both he and the Cabinet in North Norfolk felt that without financial support for those who lost their homes and businesses, they would not be able to support the proposal.

“As things stand at the moment, particularly in the absence of any form of compensation scheme, we cannot support a proposal to abandon this stretch of coastline and its local communities to the long-term effects of erosion by the sea,” said Mr Partridge.

He went on to say there was not enough money to maintain and renew existing sea defences, but defence would for now remain the council’s policy, “backed by our commitment to fight for the future of our coastal villages”.

“It is simply inconceivable that the council could promote a policy which leads to peoples’ homes and businesses being lost to the sea without full compensation derived from a genuine market valuation.”

Mr Partridge suggested that if the total value of assets which could be lost over the next 50 or 100 years was calculated and compared to the cost of defending the coast over the same period, it might turn out the existing policy of defence was “both preferable and deliverable”.

“That debate, however, must be directed at central government who must face up to the fact that this issue is so much bigger than North Norfolk,” he added.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group at Happisburgh, welcomed Mr Partridge’s comments.

“I applaud what he is saying because his words mirror what our group has been saying for some years now,” said Mr Kerby.

“I would add that it is clear to me that the SMP is by no means a council document, but the result of pressure from Government.

MP fights shoreline management plan

Byline: Adam Gretton, Eastern Daily Press

Norfolk MP is calling for compensation for coastal homeowners whose properties have been condemned to the sea by a new report.

Norman Lamb said a Government-backed plan, which recommends an abandonment of rural defences over the next 100 years, has caused “considerable anxiety” among his North Norfolk constituents.

The shoreline management plan, which was first unveiled by the EDP last week will mean hundreds of homes, tourist spots, and acres of farmland, with a value of around £250m, will be lost as a result of a “managed retreat” policy.

Mr Lamb is fighting the report and has written to environment minister Elliot Morley voicing his concerns and has invited officials from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to come and explain the policy to people living along the Norfolk and north Suffolk coast.

He said if a campaign against the “do nothing” approach fails, he wants reassurances that residents will get compensation for their losses.

“People that bought properties on the understanding that it was defended coastline have now had the goal posts shifted,” he said.

“Compensation is completely lacking here and the issue has to be considered.”

The management plan will only strengthen sea defences at larger coastal resorts but has already caused house price fears in villages like Mundesley, Happisburgh, Bacton and Winterton.

Mr Lamb added that Norfolk coastal campaigners must team up with colleagues in other erosion threatened counties to protest against the “unfair” report.

“I am acutely aware that we are finding a government with deaf ears so we need to pull our strength to speak with a united voice,” he said.

Coastal housing ‘blight’ warning

Byline: Eastern Daily Press

Home-owners on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast fear the prices of their properties are set to plummet following a controversial new report that recommends abandoning long-standing sea defences.

One concerned resident in a clifftop North Norfolk village claims her home’s price tag was slashed by £120,000, following publicity of the 100-year plan, which advocates a more natural approach to coastal defence.

It has also been blamed for one sale falling through,

And despite “don’t panic” messages from engineers and an estate agents association, there are growing fears that he villages earmarked to be “abandoned” will have their property market irreparably blighted.

As reported in Saturday’s EDP, the shoreline management plan recommends that the “hold the line” strategy to coastal defence is replaced by “managed retreat” – effectively condemning hundreds of houses, tourist facilities, and acres of farmland to be swamped by the encroaching sea.

Several rural communities in Norfolk and north Suffolk could be left to the forces of nature with only bigger seaside resorts getting reinforced defences.

Property with an estimated value of around £250m could be lost as a result of the shoreline management plan, drawn up by councils and authorities, which will officially be unveiled next month.

But, despite the long-term nature of the predictions, the property market, which is beginning to feel the strain of a collapse, has already reacted.

David Will, a chartered surveyor and former North Norfolk district councillor, said the management plan would have a “devastating” effect on the housing market.

“Places like Sea Palling, Walcott, Bacton, and Mundesley have been popular and have seen prices go up considerably. All of this will be blighted because people’s views will change from this report,” he said.

He said one house sale in Walcott fell through on Monday as a direct result of the report.

Meanwhile, values in Happisburgh, where sea erosion is a very real concern, have fallen by around 20pc over the last year, he said.

“People ask me to find defects in their houses and value their property. I have always taken the coastal erosion element into account but this has made the situation worse – people in the area are less likely to sell.”

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh Coastal Concern Action Group said the report had caused a “blanket devaluation” of properties from Overstrand, near Cromer, to Corton, near Lowestoft, after being careful to protect land values in Happisburgh.

A house seller from Overstrand, who refused to be named, said the value of her property had gone from £265,000 to £145,000 overnight as a result of the report.

But Chris Hall from the National Association of Estate Agents urged homeowners not to panic.

“If something is reported in the media, people do take notice but I do not anticipate people putting their properties on the market,” he said.

Brian Farrow, coastal protection engineer from North Norfolk District Council, who helped draw up the blueprint, said it was early days in the shoreline management plan and the public had not yet been consulted.

“Obviously there will be some concern but once people explore the position, I would be surprised if there were any real effects on property prices,” he said.

The Bacton, Walcott and Ostend area will be worst hit by the management plan with £65.9m of losses, including nearly 400 properties, and a further £48.2m and 220 home loss to Mundesley.

The proposals will save towns like Cromer, Sheringham, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but will mean disappearing or narrowing beaches.

Gary Watson, coastal manager for North Norfolk District Council, called for as many people as possible to get involved in a public consultation exercise next month.

He added that the shoreline management plan was causing a “huge debate” over the “uncertain” effect on tourism.

“One side says it will improve with a shift to a natural functioning coastline with wild and rugged features, which will be attractive to tourists. The negative side is that cliff top properties will be lost like B&Bs and hotels,” he said.

“There is no need to panic – we are required to look 100 years in the future, which is a sensible approach. All we ask is that people start to think about the ways we can shape our coastline.

Shock report casts Norfok to the seas

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

Hundreds of homes, dozens of tourist facilities, and swathes of farmland are set to be swallowed by the sea in the next 100 years.

A Government-backed new coastal defence strategy blueprint, which redraws the coastline in a huge slice of Norfolk and north Suffolk, says controlled retreat is the only affordable and sustainable way to manage most of the region’s sea-lashed shore.

It means defences being abandoned, and a handful of resort towns earmarked to have their defences strengthened will be left without beaches unless they are artificially recharged.

The shoreline management plan, drawn up by local councils working with the Government officials and conservation agencies, pulls no punches.

It warns the consequences of its recommendations “cannot be under-estimated” and urges planners to start work now on earmarking land to move people.

It means the coastline and tourist hotspots of today will change, as holiday homes, campsites, beaches and golf courses disappear.

The total value of property affected is around £250m, with the Bacton, Walcott and Ostend area suffering the worst with £65.9m worth of losses, including up to 390 homes, and Mundesley a further £48.2m, including 220 houses and 35 commercial properties.

Environmental scientist Prof Tim O’Riordan, from the University of East Anglia, who chaired a workshop on the shoreline plan at Cromer yesterday, said: “We must make a mobile and unstable coast. People should see this as an opportunity not a threat.

“Building more concrete walls will just end in tears. They are a waste of time and money. Defences only save clifftop properties – they actually destroy coastlines.”

The answer lay in managing sediment movements so that eroding cliffs naturally fed beaches further along the coast.

The report – covering an area from Kelling to Lowestoft, said carrying on with the current strategy of trying to hold the line in more places would result in a fragmented shoreline made up of a series of concrete headlands, with bays in between.

In the long term, villages such as Mundesley, Happisburgh, Caister and Corton will be left to the ravages of the North Sea, albeit in a slow, managed way.

And it warns that even at big resorts to be “saved”, such as Cromer, Sheringham, and Lowestoft, beaches would disappear as deepening water lapped against the defences all the time.

North Norfolk District Council’s coastal manager Gary Watson, who has played a leading role in the plan, said that was unlikely to happen because of the tourism impacts. Artificial beach recharges, as happened in many Spanish resorts, would keep the sands there for bucket and spade holidaymakers.

But he warned that the cost of defending the key resorts would be high because of the huge engineering tasks involved.

The report also said the price of sea defences is set to spiral, costing up to four times their current £3m-£5m a kilometre cost.

Mr Watson said he realised the management plan would cause consternation, but that the change in policy was necessary.

There was no need to panic, as the suggested changes would not have an immediate impact.

Little would change for around 20 years while, in the short term, existing defences were maintained where economically viable.

But he added: “We have a serious problem along this coastline and we need to tackle it. I believe this is the way to go. This is a bullet that has to be bitten.

“We are well aware of the outcry this will cause, but we cannot put this problem off for the future, it needs dealing with now.”

Coastal options

The shoreline management plan shows the potential housing and commercial property loss over the next 100 years.

There remains a big question mark over one area however – the Eccles to Winterton stretch behind the Sea Palling man-made reefs, which aim to stop the sea surging into the low-lying Broads.

Further detailed work is still looking at possible strategies for that area, but if nothing is done 1530 houses and 130 commercial properties could be lost by 2025 – though experts say that is unlikely to be allowed to happen.

Under the “Preferred” plan, the losses are:
2025: up to 80 houses and less than five commercial premises.
2055: between 80 and 450 houses and 80 commercial.
2105: between 450 and 1300 houses and 170 commercial.

If nothing is done:
2025: 200 houses and 20 commercial.
2055: up to 1000 houses and 300 commercial.
2105: approaching 2700 houses and 550 commercial.

Under the preferred plans, predicted implications for the following areas by the year 2105

  • Kelling Hard to Sheringham – loss of not less than five houses, farmland and part of Sheringham golf course.
  • Sheringham – no loss of property but beach disappears and lifeboat station at risk of damage
  • Sheringham to Cromer – at least 10 houses and 10 commercial properties lost, along with farmland and caravan park land.
  • Cromer – no loss of property, but beach lost and lifeboat station may need to be relocated.
  • Cromer to Overstrand – at least five commercial properties and some golf course lost.
  • Overstrand – 60 – 140 houses and up to 10 commercial properties lost, along with sewage pumping station and car park
  • Overstrand to Mundesley – 30 – 90 houses and 10 – 20 commercial properties lost, along with radar site, Trimingham church, main coast road, Vale Road beach access, caravan parks and 85 hectares of farmland.
  • Mundesley – up to 220 houses and 35 commercial properties plus sections of coast road. Beach narrows, and could be launching problems for lifeboat.
  • Mundesley to Bacton gas terminal – land loss at holiday camp and chalet park, 55 seafront properties at southern end of Mundesley, and 20 hectares of farmland.
  • Bacton gas terminal – loss of land and cliff edge buildings at risk.
  • Bacton, Walcott, Ostend – 200 – 390 seafront homes and 20-30 commercial properties, along with caravan park land.
  • Ostend to Eccles – 20 – 35 properties lost, caravan park land and 45 hectares of farmland
  • Eccles to Winterton – worst case scenarion of up to 1020 properties and 5200 hectares of farmland, plus large section of B1159 Road.
  • Winterton to Scratby – 150 seafront properties lost in Newport and Scratby plus holiday developments, tourists facilities and roads.
  • California to Caister – 70 – 130 seafront properties lost, including holiday accomodation, roads.
  • Caister – up to 50 properties lost and holiday centres / caravan parks.
  • Yarmouth – no loss of property but increased risk of defences being overtopped. Little or no beach, particularly at southern end.
  • Gorleston – no loss of property but increased risk of prom being overtopped. Very narrow beach.
  • Gorleston to Hopton – loss of some golf course.
  • Hopton – less than 20 seafront properties loast along with promenade
  • Hopton to Corton – loss of campsiteland, and 25 hectares of farmland.
  • Corton – up to 90 houses and 25 commercial properties lost along with seafront holiday sites, coast road, Methodist church, village hall and pub. School possibly at risk.
  • Corton to Lowestoft – pollution risk due to exposure of Eleni V tanker disaster oil dump.
  • Lowestoft to Ness Point – no loss of peroperty but no beach.

Homes have to be sacrificed in future

The prospect of homes falling into the sea is a reality at one Norfolk seaside village.

Happisburgh has been campaigning for years to get government funding to repair and improve its sea defences.

The new shoreline management plan, if it is adopted, would seem to destroy any hope of winning their battle by earmarking it for “managed retreat” in the longer term.

Reaction in the community to the strategy last night was a mixture of anger and renewed determination to show defences were still needed.

Malcolm Kerby, co-ordinator of the Happisburgh Coastal Concern Action Group, said: “I don’t think it is responsible to give away swathes of our nation.

“It’s not beyond the wit of man to tackle this issue with defences. What we can’t contemplate is doing nothing. You cannot cast asunder these people losing their homes and livelihoods.

“We either have to have our defences replaced, or we have to have compensation. But I believe defences are possible.”

The issue of financial compensation, not covered in shoreline management policy, looks set to emerge as a major issue under the new plans, as they go out to public consultation.

Di Wrightson has watched roads and chalets tumble on the clifftop from the home and bed and breakfast business she has run for 24 years.

But now it too is just 17m from oblivion, and she is geared up to move out this winter – heading inland to rented accomodation.

She attended yesterday’s meeting and came away “quite angry and still fighting”.

“I don’t care what the academics say. You are letting down future generations.”

Overstrand district councillor Angie Tillett said the plan was “a disaster”.

Sea defence builders of the past had “given false hopes to our generation” but she still felt villages were worth protecting.

Council colleague Sue Willis, whose ward includes Bacton and Mundesley, said “we need some form of compensation if people are going to lose their homes and livelihoods”.

Council coastal manager Gary Watson explained that sea defences interrupted natural coastal processes such as longshore drift and sediment movement – leading to a shortage of sand to feed beaches.

Longer term, the strategy would result in wide, natural sweeping beaches, while more and bigger defences could threaten the very existence of those beaches.

Prof. Tim O’Riordan said it was a “terrific step forward” that a Government was looking 100 years into the future for the first time.

He said there was no hidden agenda, and that the plan was not an excuse for lack of spending on coastal defences – where the overall budget was actually rising.

And he was encouraged by the consensus on the need for change among the agencies who have been involved in drawing up the plan.

He added: “We cannot turn the tide back, but we can work together for the best possible deal.”

Flooding threat hangs over region

Byline: Tara Greaves, Eastern Daily Press

If things remain as they are, much of East Anglia’s coastline could disappear under water, according to a new Government-backed report published yesterday.

Only a change in policies, a cut in greenhouse gases and enhanced long-term flood management will help control a crisis of massive environ-mental and financial proportions, according to the Foresight Flood and Coastal Defence report.

Although the grim message is not new, the weight this report has been given is evident in the immediate action of the Government by using it as part of a draft Flood and Coastal Protection Plan, due out later this year.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Foresight project gathered the 60 experts in climate change, engineering and economics to examine possible risks for the UK from flooding and coastal erosion in the next 30 to 100 years.

Sarah Cornell, a senior researcher at the Tyndall Centre, based at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, was part of the team.

“Some of the report does make for grim reading but that is if things stay as they are or a worst-case scenario. We have to make sure people, and not just the Government, are part of the decision-making process for their own patch but also for the nation,” she said.

“The report shows that we have to make clear choices now to manage future flood risk. This includes reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, such as Norfolk’s CRed project is doing.”

It reveals that the cost of damage from flooding and coastal erosion in Britain could rise by 20 times over the next century – from about £1bn a year to more than £20bn by 2080.

Up to four million Britons could face the prospect of their homes being swallowed by water both from rivers and the sea, particularly in parts of low-lying East Anglia.

As well as the financial impact for residents – including being unable to insure property – there is also the damage to sites of natural beauty such as the Broads.

The report found that climate change and increased flooding could alter the effectiveness of drains and sewers in towns and cities, but it needs more research.

The Government currently spends £500m per year on flood management but in this report the emphasis is not solely on its shoulders but also local council planners, developers and the public.

Four scenarios, depending on things such as climate change, economic development and Government structure, have been put forward.

There is one certainty; things cannot stay the same because the risks grow to “unacceptable levels”.

And even in the best scenario for the next 75 years – where local people take control of their areas and manage floods with strong environmental and social control – the financial risk is still double what it is today, at £2bn a year.

Although it is a national report, the findings are particularly applicable to the east.

Dr Cornell added: “We looked back at flood and coastal defences in the past because we wanted to plan for the future. It is not a forecast for the UK in the sense of a weather forecast but what we wanted to do was put forward a set of what if? situations.

“From Yorkshire to Essex, communities are at risk of flooding because of sea-level and sinking land. In addition, our coasts are soft and vulnerable to erosion and storms can also have unexpected impacts, as seen with the big flood of 1953.”

Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientist, said: “This Foresight report is the most wide-ranging analysis of future flood risk ever made in the UK. Flooding can have a devastating effect on people’s homes and businesses. There are currently about £200bn worth of assets and 1.7 million properties in flood-risk areas in England and Wales.

“The scenarios in the Future Flooding report may seem a long way off, but the challenge of increased flood risk needs to be considered now.”

It is something the Government is obviously taking seriously, having already used findings of the report.

Elliot Morley, Environment Minister, said: “Managing future flood risk, including the latest climate-change predictions, is a challenge Defra is addressing as it works on its new strategy for flood and coastal protection.

“Foresight’s important predictive insights mean that part of Defra’s work is already done – the report’s conclusions will be incorporated into the draft strategy, to be published for consultation later this year.

“Government spending on flood and coastal defence has risen significantly in the last three years and the UK is firmly committed to combating climate change. But this very useful what if? report underlines the need for the Government’s flood-management programme to keep evolving to face up to new potential risks and challenges.”

The Government has no legal obligation to defend property or land and the only way it will intervene is when it is “sustainable” to do so and where the defence is “economically, technically and environmentally sound”.

Developers and those who work in the building industry have also welcomed the report.

Chris Ward, director in charge of hydrology for TA Millard consulting engineers, based in Norwich, said: “I welcome this report. I think it says what hydrologists and engineers have been saying for years. One of the East Anglian angles is coastal realignment – where the coastline is not defended and there is a managed retreat – which is particularly unpopular in areas like Happisburgh. Although the report makes some comments about it, it does not say whether it is in favour of it or not – just that it is in the tool kit as something that can mitigate the effects of flooding.”

An on-going action plan has been drawn up which also involves making use of the report in specific parts of the country.

The full report can be found at www.foresight.gov.uk

‘Rising sea levels are inevitable’

Byline: Edward Foss, Eastern Daily Press

A host of UK and European experts were in Norfolk yesterday in an effort to thrash out some of the thorny issues surrounding climate change, sea level rise and coastal erosion.

Speakers with differing perspectives gave presentations at the On the Brink conference at Barnham Broom Hotel, near Norwich.

Issues raised included overviews of the impact of carbon-dioxide emissions on the environment, the increasing potential for extreme sea levels in the manner of 1953, the relationship between offshore dredging and increased coastal erosion, sediment movement and erosion case studies from Norfolk.

There were contributions from academics working at the University of East Anglia, the Environment Agency, plus experts from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, and a perspective from landowners in Essex.

The event was organised by the County Landowners and Business Association (CLA).

Repeated reference was made to examples of erosion and sea defence works in Norfolk, including Happisburgh, Sea Palling, Salthouse, Brancaster and Scratby.

Several of the speakers had taken the opportunity on Wednesday to visit several of these sites so they could see the impacts of climate change and coastal erosion policies in Norfolk.

David Viner, of the UEA climatic research unit, attempted to dispel what he described as some of the myths surrounding climate change, and discussed various future scenarios and what bearing those scenarios would have on the world.

“We are committed to sea level rise for many centuries, even if emissions stop now,” he warned.

Maria Russo, from the Hadley Centre for climate prediction and research in Devon, said extreme surge events would be much more likely in the future, but that it was necessary to develop better predictive models and improve the understanding of the climate system.

Jane Rawson of the Environment Agency touched on a number of issues, including sediment movement, the difference between flood defence and coast protection, and offshore dredging. The subject of offshore dredging, which some have claimed has a direct effect on coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coast, came up several more times during the day-long conference.