News: Coastal homes in sea defence budget crisis

Tens of thousands of coastal homes could be at risk in the coming decades because funding to councils for the nation’s sea defences is ‘woefully inadequate’, local government leaders have said.

The Local Government Association has called for the annual budget for sea defences for councils of around £75m to be drastically increased. With fears of global warming and sea levels expected to rise by 0.3 metres over the next 50 years, the LGA is also calling for a more comprehensive long-term system of funding.

Councils are currently drawing up a new round of ‘Shoreline Management Plans’. Millions of pounds are spent protecting coastal communities from the effects of erosion, including the construction of large sea walls and the building of artificial beaches. Plans and money allocated by the government have to strike a balance between protecting the coastline and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

Homeowners that have to abandon their homes because they are teetering on the edge are generally not able to claim through insurance.

Cllr David Sparks, environment spokesperson for the LGA said: "Britain is battered by waves every day and these vital defences protect our coastline from flooding and erosion. Many of our sea walls and defences are literally crumbling because they date back to the Victorian era and are reaching the end of their life."

"Other stretches of coastline where defences don’t exist are becoming increasingly vulnerable, placing villages and homes at risk. Add to this fears of global warming and rising sea levels and councils are facing severe problems along stretches of the coastline."

"We need to strike a balance between protecting homes at risk and providing value for taxpayers’ money. It would be difficult to justify a multi-million pound project to save just a handful of houses. But, the current annual budget of around £75m is woefully inadequate with such important works needed as a matter of urgency."

Around 50 metres of a vital sea wall protecting Felixstowe collapsed in May and on parts of the Norfolk coast there has been more than 175 metres of erosion since 1885.

The National Trust, Britain's largest coastline owner, which expects more than half its 700 miles of cliff and beach to be severely damaged by erosion in the next 100 years.

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