Evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group

To: All Party Parliamentary Group Coastal and Marine Inquiry into deprivation and disadvantage in coastal rural areas

Subject: Evidence to APPG

Thank you for the opportunity to address your group on those issues felt to be of greatest concern peculiar to those living on, making their living from or otherwise dependent upon the well-being of the coast.

MARINET and the NSAG have many members threatened with the loss of their homes, businesses, coastal trade, fishing, farmland and amenity, many of whom may wish to respond directly to your invitation to submit evidence on their situation. Those expressing the greatest concerns I have met with in my many talks, meetings and communications with them over the past three years.

As well as representing our members points of concern, I place my personal points also as one who has already lost to the sea one coastal bungalow without insurance, compensation or other reimbursement, and now because of government policies (and the lack of them) is soon deemed to lose another. In this case I speak of Hemsby North Marrams, one of many coastal areas losing to erosion the once stable dunes upon which the properties were built. There are many similar vulnerable spots along the East Anglian coastline.

  1. Property Losses
    As a prime example, Hemsby had 98 coastal bungalows built in the early 1930’s on a series of four major dune systems along a then accreting coastline. Now, since the institution of cumulative commercial scale offshore dredging for aggregate and the consequent erosion resultant, only half of one dune remains upon which five bungalows are still sited. Three of these are now used for continuous housing. The loss can be directly attributed to the >20 million metric tonnes (11.6 million cubic metres) of sand and shingle exploited from the offshore seabed of this area over the past twenty years. This is still ongoing. Less than one tenth of the loss of shoreline and beach can be attributed to sea rise and worsening climate conditions.
    Despite the widely known evidence of the damage wrought and huge opposition to granting further licences to dredge, the government continues to licence further dredging, ignoring all expert international scientific evidence of the consequences, heeding only the false claims of ‘no impact on the shoreline’ that have been supplied by those bodies who have been selected, appointed and paid for by the dredging companies themselves, with no second opinion permitted.
    This licensing to exploit is seen as unjust and unfair, as the profit being made by the dredging companies, over £1.2 billion over the past twelve years to the Crown Estate (by Royalties) and the Government (by VAT on the product) is at the expense of those living and attempting to make their living in coastal areas.
    This level of injustice is unique to the coast, as no similar ongoing causative damage exists for inland dwellers.
  2. Government imposed threats to coastal dwellers
    The governments quango’s ‘Managed Retreat’ and ‘Making Room for Water’ policies are also uniquely imposed onto those living and attempting to make their living in coastal areas. They have been dictated and continue to be held as sacred despite >99% public opposition when all but three of 2,390 coastal residents consulted vehemently rejected the resulting Shoreline Management Plan produced, and continue to oppose and object to them till this day.
    Inasmuch as blight in the form of awareness of serious loss of property value and community destabilisation has already resulted, the Managed Retreat and Shoreline Management Plans are seen as unfair, unethical and unjustifiable and contrary to human rights. No attempt has been made to balance the government’s financial gain made by their failure to defend with the cost of loss of amenity, housing, infrastructure, tourist income to the local community.

    Inasmuch as the theory of protecting the coastline by aiding and abetting its demise (resulting originally from a poorly research paper by the Environment Agency’s Sarah Nason) is widely seen by all independent coastal geomorphologists and those localised experts who fully understand such a policy as being the very opposite to that needed, as it only benefits the dredgers by the further supply of aggregate to a nigh exhausted sea bed area at the expense of coastal residents livelihood. It is seen as against all human rights, all basic justice and all ethical principles.
    No such a parasitic situation is produced to those in inland areas.

  3. Loss of income
    The loss of our beaches, dunes, wildlife areas and coastal accommodation is already ongoing, and with continuation of an insufficiency of funding to protect will further escalate with the loss of The Broads, much housing, several villages with heritage buildings and holiday accommodation in the near future. It is this unique amenity that brings much of the income to East Anglia and upon which tourist income the coastal East Anglian area is dependant.

    The value of wildlife sites and nature reserves adds greatly to the attraction of coastal areas, thus the income resulting to the local economy is substantial. Whilst several major areas of many of these have already been lost to the sea, more are being planned by abandoning the defences instead of maintaining and boosting them. Thus further economic, environmental and recreational dependencies will be lost unless funding is provided.

    The value of this to the local economy both in terms of capital assets and in employment far outstrips the monetary gain that would be made by both the savings in the failure to provide defences and the income derived from offshore aggregate exploitation.
    Such a situation is unique to the coastal area and the inland areas dependent upon it.

  4. Employment
    In addition to the threat to employment in the tourist sector, we have the loss of income from fishing and associated trade dependent upon this factor. That the ports of Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Lowestoft have lost some 95% of their fishing industry compared to the still thriving Dutch port of Ijmuden only 100 miles to the east in the same North Sea clearly evidences the poverty of the East Anglian sector in failing to protect its assets.
  5. Relative threat
    The threat of flooding to inland areas, i.e. those not directly impacted by a marine breakthrough but who are hit by alluvial flooding or river overflow, or by sewer eruption, is not the in same destructive category as that inflicted by the sea either overtopping the flood defences or undermining and toppling the sea defence walls to allow sudden inundation. In the main the damage to inland riverine area habitations will be to furnishings and will bring about temporary loss of accommodation, rarely if ever the destruction of property or death by drowning or exposure. Further, inland householders are normally able to insure against losses due to flooding.

    Any loss of agricultural land will be purely temporary with fresh water flooding, but sea water will salinate and cause the loss of productive agricultural and for up to four years.

    In the case of marine flooding, this will normally be due to the failure of sea walls or natural dune systems to resist and defend against a major tidal surge occurring under specific weather conditions, such as the major North Sea Surges of 1938 and 1953.

    These past surges produced total destruction of housing and infrastructure and long term loss of land use. The 1953 floods caused death by drowning and hypothermia of 300 people in East Anglia. Such deaths are very rare in inland flooding. That underfunding and ‘Managed Retreat’ have combined to elevate the coastal threat at a time that sand and shingle is being stripped from our beaches because of ongoing offshore aggregate dredging makes for a grave situation not encountered in inland threatened areas.

    The building of new housing on known flood plains coupled with the threats imposed by climate change has brought about far greater vulnerability to housing established in such areas, whereas the long established buildings and infrastructure in most East Anglian coastal areas was mainly installed at the earlier time of accreting shorelines long before any failure to defend or other damaging practices were even contemplated that would escalate erosion to the rapid rate seen today.

  6. Vulnerability
    A final factor is that many elderly people have chosen on their retirement to re-establish themselves along ideal parts of our coastline, this in contrast to mostly newer and younger families many of whom who now occupy housing on flood plains. Thus, a far higher degree of vulnerability is presented to those more frail sections of our population by threats that could not have been contemplated prior to present damaging practices and plans.

    Coastal flooding can bring about loss of electrical power, telephones, the mobile telephone network, radio and television due to gale destruction and salination, so decreeing a loss of communications hence no flood warnings. Such is not the case in inland areas where a steady rise of water occurs and communications facilities will normally remain intact.

    Furthermore, many of the properties occupied permanently were once holiday homes of a far lower constructional standard than the modern home. Such were once deemed to be occupied in the summer months only as they are highly vulnerable to winter storm conditions, especially so under the ongoing conditions already stated. Thus the threat to life and total loss of property is elevated in such.

I hope and trust that these points submitted will provide useful evidence for your considerations.

Pat Gowen, MARINET and the NSAG

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