The Growing Impact of the Shoreline Management Plan

Things are not looking good for the future of our coastline and the hopes of the many communities who live from it and by it. The full effect of the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is now being realized, abruptly brought into focus by the storm surge of December when large areas of our East Anglian shoreline were taken by the raging sea.

Lord Deben’s ‘Committee on Climate Change’ has given the EA and LA’s the goal of realigning (abandoning to the sea) 550 Km of rural coast by 2030 and 750 Km by 2050, which will mean a huge loss of agricultural land and the habitation and businesses of those that live and work along the shoreline.

The Environment Agency are changing the goalposts too. Funding for sea defences was based on a five to one (5:1) ratio of the value of the property defended to the funding offered has now been changed to an eight to one (8:1) ratio. If this were calculated on the blighted value caused by the vulnerability itself and if the loss of income in terms of Council Tax and monies derived from tourist and holiday input were not considered, the claimed value estimated would be quite small, and few areas could thus benefit by protection funding even on an eight to one basis. The potential number of houses, coastal roads, valuable farmland and precious wildlife sites could be considerable.

Now we have the National Trust are looking at abandoning some front-line sea defences along our coastline, where vital habitats so far defended from the sea may be sacrificed in the near future. Not only the environmental value of these but the income derived from tourism in a dependent community is an economic mainstay of many smaller villages. In Norfolk and Suffolk habitats feature strongly in this where there is likely to be retreat from some front-line sea defences such as at Brancaster, Blakeney, Horsey, Dunwich, Orford Ness and Northey Island, all of which were damaged and breached in the recent tidal surge. In the study, due out next month, the National Trust has been looking in particular at these points.

Needless to say, there is and never has been support for the ‘Managed Retreat’ a.k.a. ‘Making Room for Water’ policies and the Shoreline Management Plans that evolved from it, as was shown to be the case in Norfolk and Suffolk when the SMP was first broached. The consultation was responded to by 2,410 concerned people. 2.400 were opposed, just six were in favour whilst four ‘didn’t know’. But despite to 99.6% rejection it was enforced.

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