Attempt to hold back sea is 'futile'

A SENIOR figure at a leading worldwide engineering organisation has told how it is “futile” to protect parts of the Suffolk coastline from the sea.

Anthony Bond

A SENIOR figure at a leading worldwide engineering organisation has told how it is “futile” to protect parts of the Suffolk coastline from the sea.

Dr Colin Brown told the EADT that he agreed with the Environment Agency's (EA) policy to stop maintaining flood walls around Blythburgh, Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick.

Dr Brown, engineering director at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), which yesterdayreleased a report warning that Britain should prepare for massive loss of landmass, said: “My personal reaction as a professional engineer is that as we move forward the sea level is rising and, like King Canute, if we think that we can keep holding it back with higher and higher walls then that is mistaken.


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“Yes in the short term we can protect a few acres of land but in the long-term we cannot keep it up. Why not admit it and go with it and move on?

“Certainly in that area (Southwold) you do get flooding and we cannot as human beings stop the sea coming in on the land at some time or another. It is futile because whatever efforts we do will be overwhelmed.

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“I have sympathy for people living in those areas but the reality is that at some point we will need to abandon it. The question is not if but when.”

The EA was given approval last month to submit a draft strategy to stop maintaining the flood walls around Blythburgh, Southwold, Reydon and Walberswick.

The agency argues that it would cost �35million to do the maintenance and it is unable to find the funding. However the Blyth Estuary Group says there is a viable alternative costing �2m.

Richard Steward, a member of the Blyth Estuary Group, said there was no evidence yet of accelerated sea rises.

“We are only talking about how to hand this onto the next generation in the next 50 to 100 years,” said Mr Steward. “Dr Brown does not know what sea level rise is going to be, nobody does. There are lots of guesses and predictions. But there is no evidence of any significant acceleration in sea level rise over the last 400 years.

“We should protect the coast for as long as we can and only let it go when we have the evidence that we cannot maintain it at an affordable price and we have not reached that point yet. It is unfortunate that people like this wish to abandon things before there is clear evidence.”

The report by the IMechE said that sea levels are predicted to rise by 2 metres by 2250 and 7metres by the end of that century.

It warned that Sizewell nuclear power station would need “considerable investment” to protect it against rising sea levels - or even abandonment/relocation in the long term.

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