Storm Imogen batters Porthleven in Cornwall during winter 2015/16. Photograph: Moorefam / Getty Images Storm Imogen batters Porthleven in Cornwall during winter 2015/16. Photograph: Moorefam / Getty Images

What’s at risk from coastal flooding and erosion: 10 things you need to know

The government needs to step up action to protect coastal assets and homes from flooding and coastal erosion, according to a report published this morning by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Here are 10 things you need to know about what’s at risk.

1 Coastal flooding and erosion costs more than £260m every year

The annual direct economic damages exceed £260m, but would be much higher when indirect damages are included, such as those related to pollution or health issues.

2 Around £150bn worth of assets are estimated to be at risk

Roads, railway stations, ports, schools, care homes, power stations and landfill sites located on the coast are all vulnerable to coastal flooding and erosion. 

3 Critical national infrastructure is in danger of being overwhelmed

Some 28% of the UK’s oil refining capacity is located in the vulnerable Humber flood plain and the Bacton gas terminal in Norfolk, which handles 30% of the UK’s gas supply, requires defending from the sea via major sandworks. 

4 Farmland and important natural habitats are also threatened

The Environment Agency estimates that more than “3,000 hectares of internationally protected intertidal habitat” would be lost due to “coastal squeeze” between now and 2100, as sea defences prevent coastal habitats from migrating inland.

5 Around 1,300 historic coastal landfill sites could be breached

Little is known about the materials stored in these old and unlined sites, which could be a risk to bathing waters, wildlife and coastal habitats.

6 Councils are accused of allowing  inappropriate development in risky areas

During the EFRA committee’s inquiry, the National Trust suggested that some local authorities were not designating areas at risk of coastal change over the next 100 years as Coastal Change Management Areas in their local plans, which would restrict development, because it would prevent them from meeting their targets for house building.

7 Environment Agency advice is not always followed

The inquiry heard that although the Environment Agency is a statutory consultee on local plans and many applications for planning permission, its advice is often not followed, leading to inappropriate development.

9 Sea-level rise will force people to abandon communities and assets 

The committee says it is “clear that in the face of sea-level rise, the national approach to managing coastal flooding and erosion for many areas will need to increasingly move away from ‘holding the line’ towards supporting people and communities to adapt to change and mitigate the harms”, including moving away from the coast altogether. 

10 MPs on the committee want more action from the government’s action to protect the coast

The committee has urged the government to show how “national policies and strategy on flood and coastal erosion risk management, funding, and cost benefit analysis methodologies, are going to change, including the level of priority placed on protecting residential properties”.

You can read the committee’s report here

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