1. ITV Report

Should we bother spending millions on sea defences?

The long term cost of dealing with coastal erosion Photo: Kate Prout

Six thousand tonnes of Norwegian granite, from the Larvik Quarry in South Norway, is currently being offloaded onto Lowestoft's beach in a bid to bolster up the crumbling sea defences.

It's an expensive and time consuming exercise and won't hold back the tide for ever. So should we bother with spending millions on sea defences or leave our coast to nature's whims?

The sandy soil of the East Anglian coast is vulnerable to coastal erosion. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"it's important that we think about the sort of uses we want from our coastal areas. Some of them are important for visitors and tourists, some for farming, some for wildlife because of the particular habitats. And I think that what's important is that we seek to protect each of them in a particular way. There has been a sense that maybe we should just leave certain areas and let the sea come in. I think as an island nation that's generally speaking something that makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. Certain areas can be given up but I don't think it's the solution to give up large areas of land to the sea"

– Prof Jules Pretty, University of Essex
Granite rocks imported from Norway are being brought in to protect the Suffolk coast. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Decisions about where to save and where to leave are dictated by the Shoreline Management Plan. A 100 year look at how our coast is likely to change and should be dealt with until 2105.

Each part of coast has one of four managed policies:

  • No active intervention
  • Holding the existing defence line
  • Managed realignment - allowing the shoreline to move naturally, but directing it in certain areas
  • Advance the line - building new defences.
Cliffs along the East Anglian coast are constantly being eroded by the North Sea. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's unrealistic to think we can protect every bit of our coast. In fact in some cases intervention would mean losing many of our wonderful beaches. Choices will continue to be made based on economics and environment.

Norwegian rock might be the solution for saving Lowestoft but elsewhere it may well just be a case of adapting to time and tide.

Click below to watch Kate Prout's report

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