1. ITV Report

Homeowners want action to protect cliffs

The cliffs at Eastchurch Gap are being eroded by the sea Photo: ITV

Stretches of our coastline are at a greater risk from being swallowed up by the sea - as climate change causes water levels to rise, and our coastal defences crumble.

The north coast of the Isle of Sheppey is suffering. Cliff erosion is being predicted to increase significantly over the next 100 years.

You can see how close the cliffs already are to dozens of houses, in this video:

At Eastchurch Gap, cliffs overlooking the Thames Estuary have come under attack from storms and waves.

The Environment Agency has just launched a consultation on its coastline strategy for this stretch of the coastline. Its draft plans say there should be 'no active intervention' to stop the erosion of the cliffs here.

But those living ever closer to the waves don't share their point of view. Abigail Bracken spoke to Malcolm Newell of the Eastchurch Gap Cliff Erosion Community Group:

In a statement, the Environment Agency told us:

The Environment Agency is responsible for taking a strategic overview of the management of all sources of flooding and coastal erosion. We also have operational responsibility for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea.

District and unitary councils (such as Swale Borough Council) in coastal areas act as coastal erosion risk management authorities, and ensure decisions on development in their area are effectively managed to manage the risk...

Our strategy, which is currently in consultation, sets out in more detail the specific schemes or actions required to deliver the coastal policies. If this strategy is approved, it will be come into effect in 2018 and it will be Swale Borough Councils responsibility to deliver this approach.

– Environment Agency

Swale Borough Council told Meridian in a statement:

Compelling evidence from the Environment Agency suggests there is no practical or economic solution to the natural coastal erosion taking place on this stretch of coastline. Despite this, we did invest £30,000 in a pilot scheme that may have helped slow the rate of erosion, but this has not had the impact residents hoped.

“Of course, we remain sympathetic to the concerns of the communities in these areas – who would have had the threat of erosion highlighted in surveys when they bought their homes - but nature is taking its course, as it has done for centuries. As a local authority we must ensure that any investments that we make are prioritised to get the best value for the tax payer.

– Swale Borough Council