A clear national strategy is urgently needed to help coastal areas adapt to the twin pressures of rising sea levels and extreme weather, according to a new report published by the National Trust.
As one of the UK’s biggest coastal owners, the Trust has seen many of its sites battered by the winter storms or hit hard by the high tides – with one, Birling Gap in East Sussex, experiencing seven years of erosion this winter.
These impacts have meant that the charity has had to fast-forward many decisions about land and buildings in its care, looking at how to adapt coastal places in the months ahead, rather than years or decades.
The report, ‘Shifting Shores – adapting to change’, highlights case studies of special places affected by the storms, including stretches of the wildlife-rich Norfolk coast at Brancaster and Blakeney Freshes, which saw significant changes as a result of a tidal surge in December, and the sand dunes at Murlough in Northern Ireland which suffered their worst erosion in living memory.
Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director at the National Trust, said: “There is a natural inclination to want to defend the coastline with concrete, but our coastline is dynamic and the forces of nature that have formed it are part of its beauty.
“Hard defences will always have their place, but the winter storms that hit many coastal places hard have provided a valuable reminder that they have a limited life.
“Communities living on the coast, landowners, Government agencies and local and central Government all need to work together now to find solutions based around an adaptation approach to help future-proof the coastline.”