Thoughts on the latest Shoreline Management Plan

Dr. Harry Buckland of Grimsby, one of our most active Coastal Group members gives his thoughts on the latest modifications to the Shoreline Management Plan, which notes some interesting comparators.

I am glad to note that the Environment Agency has agreed to maintain the current sea defence standard north of Great Yarmouth for the next 50 years, although this number compares unfavourably with the Netherlands standard of 1:1000 years. The Grimsby and Ancholme Catchments Flood Management Plan (June 2006) considered a 1:100 standard ‘appropriate’. Now there is a suggestion that this standard should be reduced to 1:50 i.e. within the lifetime of the average house. I am trying, so far without success, to discover where, how and by whom such fundamental standards affecting 500,000 homes from the Humber to the Hamble are arrived at and whether there is a statutory right of appeal.

25 square miles of the Broads were threatened which at a land price of £6000 per acre equates to £96 million capital loss, to say nothing of the ongoing economic benefits of some of the most productive farming land in Britain. Somewhere I have read that tourist income from the Norfolk Broads accounts for one third of North Norfolk District Councils revenue.

Comparable figures for housing land are — Netherlands €3,500, UK €14,500. The Netherlands GDP per capita is €52,000, the UK €43,000.

Perhaps two years ago when the Broads were threatened with reversion to saltmarsh I wrote to the Chief Executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council asking whether plans existed to put the A47 and its accompanying railway line on stilts. My letter was never acknowledged but I note that the Joint Working Group of GYBC, NNDC and Waveney and Suffolk Coast is looking at the long term outlook for the next 100 years. Assuming they accept that sea levels will rise by 1 metre in that time presumably they are investigating the feasibility and costs of re-locating the port of Yarmouth upstream perhaps in Norwich, as was done by King John when he created the port of Kingston-upon Hull a thousand years ago.

The Manchester Ship Canal completed in 1894 cost £1.22 billion at today’s prices. It is 36 miles long and was 7 years in construction. The distance from Norwich to Yarmouth is 20 miles.

Sarah Nason’s paper ‘Uneconomic Sea Defences’ was fundamentally flawed in that it used Average Annual Damage insurance figures which completely failed to take account of the total loss of property and land allowed to revert to saltmarsh. Hopefully the next EA assessment will be rather more sophisticated and do something to repair the damaged confidence of householders and businesses.

Dr H M Buckland, 18 Augusta Close, Grimsby, NE Lincs, DN34 4TQ — 14/9/2009

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