Up to six metres of coastline claimed by the sea each year: Some coastal defences can cause erosion on nearby beaches, scientists warn. Nicholas Schoon reports
Wednesday 09 June 1993
Yet they rarely make the headlines because fields rather than homes are destroyed. Coastal stretches prone to collapse are sufficiently well known to be off limits to builders.
Yesterday, as the North Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott called for emergency EC aid for Scarborough, scientists warned that coastal defence structures used to combat erosion could cause problems further along the coast.
Dr John Pethick, a coastal geomorphologist at Hull University, said the best overall solution was to avoid building in the worst affected areas, surrender land to the sea and compensate landowners affected.
He said compensation should be sorted out at a European level because huge quantities of sediment from Britain's east coast travelled across the North Sea to be deposited on the beaches of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Once there it acted as a natural sea defence.
Dr Pethick said a 25-mile stretch of coast around Holderness, north of Hull, was being eroded at the rate of 2 metres a year, depositing about 1.5 million cubic metres of sediment into the North Sea.
Since Roman times the coast has moved more than two miles inland and some 30 villages have disappeared. Professor Keith Clayton, head of the University of East Anglia's school of environmental sciences, said the erosion rate along a three-mile stretch at Covehithe, north of Southwold in Suffolk, was even higher - six metres a year for several decades. In one location the sea had come inshore by 35 metres during a recent winter.
He said there had been many cases of piecemeal coastal defence works being built this century which caused severe erosion further afield.
On some stretches of coastline one cliff edge can be eroding rapidly while a low-lying area one mile away can be fed by the sediment from it and be in peril should that supply be interrupted.
The southern half of Britain is gradually sinking - as fast as six millimetres a year - while the north is rising: the axis runs between Belfast and Sunderland. This happens because the land mass is still responding to the removal of billions of tons of ice at the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago.
At the same time, global sea levels may be starting to rise slowly as the sea warms, due to the increase in temperatures brought about by increasing levels of man-made 'greenhouse' gases. Dr Pethick said the rise was happening at about one millimetre a year. The east coast is affected worse than the west because the rocks tend to be softer.
The new thinking is to surrender land wherever possible and to imitate or encourage natural defences, such as beach building.
The Ministry of Agriculture, which has the prime responsibility for coastal defence, is interested. But it has yet to come up with any large-scale trials, or compensation schemes for landowners affected.
(Photograph and map omitted)
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...