Third of coastline cannot be affordably protected, government climate change advisers say, with current plans ‘not fit for purpose’
Damian CarringtonLast modified on Fri 26 Oct 2018 06.32 BST
Rising sea levels will claim homes, roads and fields around the coast of England, the government’s official advisers have warned, and many people are unaware of the risks they face.
The new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said existing government plans to “hold the line” in many places – building defences to keep shores in their current position – were unaffordable for a third of the country’s coast. Instead, the CCC said, discussions about the “hard choices” needed must be started with communities that will have to move inland.
“There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee. “The current approach is not fit for purpose. This report is really a wake-up call to the fact that we can’t protect the whole English coast to today’s standard.”
She added: “We could see as much as a metre of sea level rise before the end of the century, so within the lifetime of today’s children, and that has a major impact on coastal flooding and erosion.” Prof Jim Hall, another member of the committee, said: “We are not prepared.”
The regions affected include areas with soft, eroding shores in the south and east, as well as low-lying areas in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, parts of the south-west such as the Somerset Levels, and the coast between Liverpool and Blackpool in the north-west.
The entire coast of England is already covered by shoreline management plans, developed by the Environment Agency and local councils. These would cost £18-30bn to implement, but have no funding and no legal force. The CCC analysis found that, for more than 150km of coast, the plans to hold the line would cost more than the property and land that would be protected.