Tyndall Forum : ‘How do we create a Sustainable Coastline?’

That was the title for the Tyndall Centre Forum held at the University of East Anglia on 10th September ’08. It was attended by 63 invited guests, representing all local Councils, Business Centres, Development Agencies, Risk and Policy Analysts, Anglian Water, the NFU, Natural England, the CLA, Civil Engineers, The National Trust, the RSPB, DEFRA, the Environment Agency, Wildlife Trusts, Norwich & Norfolk FoE, USEA, the Broads Authority, Natural England, MPs, CoastNet, Go-East, The Thames Gateway Project, HR Wallingford, all impacted Local Community Action Groups, and many more. Last and not least by MARINET and the NSAG and members of our Coastal Group.

Chaired and introduced by Professor Tim O’Riordan, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, the speakers were:

  1. Professor Robert Nicholls of the Tyndall Centre for Climatic Change Research and the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton addressing ‘Climatic Change and Coasts’
  2. Dr. Mike Walden of the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University with Dr. Sophie Nicholson-Cole of the Tyndall Centre talking on ‘A taste of the Tyndall Centre’s Coastal Research’
  3. Gary Watson of the Environment Agency, Anglian Region, addressing ‘A Changing Coastline’
  4. Peter Frew, Head of Coastal Strategy at North Norfolk District Council, who spoke on ‘The Challenge of managing coastal change’

Some very valuable data was given by all speakers regarding the ongoing study, the decline of the Eastern seaboard coastline over the years, the major threat to all coastal and low elevation inland areas, the correlation of sea rise with CO2 emissions and the grave predictions for the future. It arose that 78% of the East Anglian beaches were steepening, reducing and shortening, some by as much as 2.5 meters per year, and that 44% of all the entire regions beaches were now eroding.

An open discussion with points and questions from the floor responded to by the speaker panel followed the presentations, the first seven questions relating directly to the role and impact of Offshore Aggregate Dredging in escalating coastal erosion, which all of the speakers had failed to address. (In fact, the very first speaker referred to the situation as being due to “a naturally eroding coastline” (!).

Most of the panel spokesmen were unable to answer the questions relating to the dredging impact, but two referred to computer simulation (not actual findings) and so considered the erosion and hence potential flooding as unlikely to be due to dredging. It was generally admitted and agreed that this was an unknown area, and that more research was needed. I was able to point out to them that the effect was well known, and had been for over one hundreds years when the Royal Commission advised the government that Offshore Dredging should be banned. I advised that they made themselves familiar with our MARINET Website, the recent Eurosion Report and the Sandpit Report, whilst other questioners pointed out the Cape Canaveral study findings made by the American Corps of Engineers.

After the session on the impact of dredging, left rather unresolved, the discussion moved on to the ethical and social considerations of the Shoreline Management Plan and the prior poor handling of this. No commitment to a change of Government Policy was given, although this was hinted at.

In this brief report it is impossible to cover the full detail of the talks and the ensuing discussion, but the Tyndall Centre Forum has provided and retailed much valuable information, raised awareness, understanding and concern, and generally given an excellent and comprehensive presentation of what is facing East Anglia and similar threatened areas.

As for the fundamental question ‘How do we create a Sustainable Coastline?’ that remains unanswered. Whether compromise is possible or continuing reaction further escalates is dependent upon the will of Westminster and its bodies, upon government economic and environmental policy and their understanding, and upon a general awareness, which is what this conference was all about.

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