Over 500,000 properties in England are in areas at risk from coastal flooding and the number threatened by coastal erosion is set to rise substantially, according to a new report.
The study published by the independent Government panel, the Committee on Climate Change, shows that overall some 520,000 properties, including 370,000 homes are at risk and 8,900 are in areas at risk of being lost to coastal erosion.
By the 2080s up to 1.5 million properties, including 1.2 million homes could be in areas with significant levels of flood risk and 100,000 at risk from erosion and the report states that the public are not clearly enough informed about the risks.
The areas that are most at risk of coastal flooding include Lincolnshire, the Wash in East Anglia, and the Essex estuaries and the threat of coastal erosion is highest in areas of sand, gravel and clay found in the east and south of the country, such as the Holderness coast North of the Humber, the North Norfolk coast and the eastern end of the South coast.
It points out that implementing current policies to protect England’s coast would cost £18 to £30 billion depending on the rate of climate change and that existing plans to protect a third of England’s coastline are far less cost effective than the flood and coastal erosion protection measures that are funded by the Government today.
It says that the Government should make long term funding and investment available to protect coastal cities and infrastructure, restore more coastal habitats and help affected communities cope with inevitable changes.
‘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,’ said Professor Jim Hall, the CCC Adaptation Committee’s expert on flooding and coastal erosion,
‘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 Government and local authorities need to talk honestly with those affected about the difficult choices they face,’ he explained.
‘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,’ he added.
Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the adaptation committee of the CCC, said the findings are a warning that current plans need to be adapted. ‘Our coastal communities are particularly vulnerable. They will probably be less resilient than our other communities because they are generally older and also less affluent than the general population,’ she explained.
Hall added that in areas where coastal defences such as sea walls become unsustainable, restoring the coastline to its natural state, such as dunes, beaches and marshes, could be one solution.