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Wales’ crumbling coastline: The homes in danger of slipping away

Scientists say climate change could speed up the process of coastal erosion in Wales. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Communities and towns across Wales’ coast will need to adapt and evolve if they’re going to survive climate change and rising sea levels, one council warns.

Ceredigion Council is one of the authorities most affected by coastal erosion and they say the long term future for some coastal areas is ‘problematic’.

Michael and Jane Page have had to watch their garden slowly disappear. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Michael and Jane Page know all about the effects of coastal erosion. The couple’s home has been on the frontline since they moved to New Quay in Ceredigion for their retirement.

They’ve had to watch their garden slowly disappear.

The couple hope the house lasts for their lifetime. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

“We've been here [New Quay] five years now this June, and the piece of grass at the bottom was level and part of our lawn and in the previous year or two it has slid away mainly due to rainfall and the general subsidence of the cliff here." says Michael.

"The winter is the problem, because of the extra rainfall. The summer, generally everything is fairly stable. We’re both in our 70s and we love the house and we hope it’ll stay there for our lifetime, but who knows?”

23%
of Wales’ coastline is affected by erosion.
A major landslide happened at Oxwich Bay in Gower at the start of January. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It’s estimated that almost a quarter of Wales’ coastline is affected by erosion.

A major landslide happened at Oxwich Bay in Gower at the start of January.

The ailing sea wall in Old Colwyn protects the A55 and rail line along with a main sewer which runs underneath. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Old Colwyn in North Wales has also been regularly hit with storms battering the promenade. The ailing sea wall along the coast protects the A55 and rail line along with a main sewer which runs underneath. However, the town's tourist industry could be wiped out unless repairs are made to the wall.

Scientists says climate change could have a big impact on our coastline. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The CHERISH project at Aberystwyth University is mapping the extent of Wales’ coastal erosion. Dr Patrick Robson says climate change could have a big impact on our coastline.

“If we are to expect more intense storms, more frequent storms as a result of climate change, and even small increases in sea level, these will have big implications for the way the sediments do move around our coastlines, and the undercutting of cliff faces, which will exacerbate erosion. It's difficult to estimate where those will happen, but by looking at some well known heritage sites, we've been trying to measure the rates of loss, and some of them are quite startling.”

Ceredigion Council warns the intensity of climate change is affecting towns and villages across the local authority. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales
200,000
properties in Wales are at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea.

Councils and the Welsh Government are spending many millions on flood defences but warn there will be some difficult choices. Rhodri Llwyd from Ceredigion Council warns the intensity of climate change is affecting towns and villages across the local authority.

“We will be looking at other schemes to protect the communities that have been identified as being at risk in the future. I think there are communities around the entire Welsh coastline that will need to adapt and evolve in the short and medium term, because the long term future for them will be problematic, given the intensity of climate change and sea level rise.”

The Welsh Government is spending £350 million over five years for flood and coastal risk projects.

It says it prioritises the funding for homes most at risk. When asked at a plenary meeting Environment Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, said the amount of money the Welsh Government set aside isn’t enough and their budget had been hit as a result of austerity measures.

We will invest £350 million this Assembly term in Flood and Coastal Risk management programmes, with funding prioritised according to risk to homes and business and towards the communities most at risk.

Welsh Government has not been approached by Ceredigion Council for funding for any works to reduce the impacts of coastal erosion at New Quay. Over the past 10 years we have provided the local authority with almost £25million to reduce flood risk to communities along the coastline. We continue to work with Ceredigion on future schemes at Aberystwyth and Aberaeron through the Coastal Risk Management Programme.

– Welsh Government Statement