Coastal erosion could cost billions

THE cost of costal flooding in Suffolk and north Essex could run into billions of pounds, an insurance trade body has warned.

Kate McGrath

THE cost of costal flooding in Suffolk and north Essex could run into billions of pounds, an insurance trade body has warned.

Climatologists predict sea levels on the east coast could rise by 40cms (15.75 inches) during the next 40 years, the Association of British Insurers said.

The financial impact on Lowestoft alone would be �550million, with more than 17,500 homes and commercial properties at risk of flooding.

Research shows that if there was a tidal surge in the Lowestoft area today 3,900 homes and commercial properties would be at risk. However by 2050 the rise in properties at risk would represent an 830 per cent increase.

They also warn of the impact this would have on tourism in the region and the disruption to transport and roads.

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Although the association only examined the impact of flooding in the Lowestoft region, the impact further down the coast would be similar, especially in those areas already at risk.

A spokesman from the association said: “The majority of flooding by 2050 will be around north Essex, north Norfolk and parts of Suffolk.

“This is due to a combination of things - the fact it is mainly low lying and the rise in sea levels. Over the last decade the sea around the east coast has risen by 3cm.”

The Environment Agency recently caused uproar when it announced it could only afford to maintain defences on the river Blyth for the next five years and could only continue to protect Southwold harbour for 20 years.

At the moment the EA, who now have an overview on the coast, is in the middle of a public consultation on shoreline management in the east of England.

Rita Penman, media specialist, from the Anglian region of the agency said coastal defences are very much on the agenda.

“Our role is to protect people and properties from flooding within financial constraints,” she said.

“For example it wouldn't be worth our while protecting a community from the sea made up of four houses. But even if we had a bottom less pit of money it wouldn't always be worth building sea defences all around the coast. Some of the coastline is forever changing so we wouldn't invest in an area where three months down the line we'd need to rebuild the defences.

“We are looking at sustaining the coast in the long term.”

Nationally the Association of British Insurers predict homes at risk of coastal flooding could soar by 40 percent, putting an additional 130,000 homes - from Hull to London on the east coast - at risk.

In light of this, the association has published a series of measures they would like to see included in the Government's final Flood and Water Management Bill to ensure that flood insurance remains widely available to more than two million homeowners and businesses in areas that are known to be at risk.

Insurers have pledged to continue to provide cover to existing customers whose properties are at risk of flooding until 2013, as long as adequate flood management in its place.

The association have called on the Government to set targets and give the Environment Agency a statutory duty to reduce flood risk.

However the Environment Agency claim this is “unachievable” and say “it is not possible to protect everyone everywhere at all times from the risk of flooding”.