Communities like the village of Happisburgh in Norfolk on England”s east coast are literally on the frontline of the coastal erosion issue in the UK, with up to four metres of land vanishing every single year.
The pace of change is now increasing; the Committee on Climate Change, which offers independent advice to government climate issues and a low-carbon economy, says that unless action is taken, the land on which 100,000 homes currently stands could soon vanish into the sea.
Scientists say climate change is driving the increase.
“Policy changes have meant that the defences here have been allowed to degrade and erosion has caught up with itself rather quickly.
“That’s caused a lot of problems in Happisburgh, not least people losing their homes over the edge of the cliff.
“We need to be prepared for that and to understand how to prepare communities in the long run to be resilient and to withstand those kinds of events.”
Happisburgh has lost 35 homes to coastal erosion in just two decades.
Local resident Malcolm Kerby knows this coastline well, having fought for protection and help for decades.
He sums up the despair of many of his neighbours:
“You feel as though you’ve been stripped of your humanity. It’s gone.
“I’d have people ringing me up: ‘Kerby, get up to the front, there’s another ten metres gone’.”
“The biggest problem in this whole coast management thing in this country is an abject lack of
The UK government updated its flood and coastal erosion strategy earlier this year and says it will explore the possibility of relocating some at-risk communities. But there’s currently no central government money earmarked for this.
Around 18,000 kilometres of the UK’s mainland coastline are vulnerable to sea flooding and landslides.
And erosion is fast becoming an ever greater risk for the 17 million people who live close to Britain’s shores.