Could Suffolk’s coast be at greater risk of flooding in 30 years?
PUBLISHED: 05:31 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:49 15 November 2019
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Vast areas of the Suffolk coast could be at greater risk of flooding in just 30 years due to the effects of climate change, an international study has warned.
US-based Climate Central, based in New Jersey, predicts sea levels will rise by 10cm every decade until 2050.
Its map shows areas in red predicted to be below the annual flood level, which it believes would be exceeded on average once a year.
The study says coastal towns such as Aldeburgh, Lowestoft, Orford and Southwold will be vulnerable.
However there is an active management plan for the Suffolk coast which is monitored by the council officials and councillors. One of the reasons for bringing Suffolk Coast and Waveney district councils together as East Suffolk Council earlier this year was to have a single local authority responsible for almost all Suffolk's coastline.
Hugo Girard, a spokesman for Climate Central, said: "The existing defences will certainly need to be developed and strengthened to continue protecting those below the sea level."
The Alde and Ore Estuary Partnership has been campaigning for a £26.9m flood programme to upgrade vital river walls along the Suffolk coast to prevent flood predictions like this becoming reality.
Sir Edward Greenwell, chairman of the partnership, said: "We are living below sea level and protected by the clay sea wall defences and have been for hundreds of years.
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"When there is a tidal surge the water currently comes up to the wall and sometimes comes down the other side but not too much.
"But in the future in 2050 the sea levels rising could mean that if the walls aren't strengthened, they could be eroded and instead of a 10cm of water there will be 10metres of it."
East Suffolk Council, which is responsible for coastal management from Felixstowe to Lowestoft, also said it has a dedicated team which helps to manage potential problems along its coastline.
It is part of Coastal Partnership East alongside Great Yarmouth and North Norfolk councils. Together they manage flood and coastal protection between Holkham Beach in North Norfolk and Landguard Point in Felixstowe.
And the Partnership is also part of a monitoring group measuring sea levels all the way from the Humber estuary to the Thames in a bid to identify any immediate problems and long-term trends.
Although the maps from Climate Central suggest there could be major loss along the Suffolk coast, they suggest much more land in Norfolk, around the broads and the fens, could be at risk.
And they also show further areas of the Netherlands could be below sea level - although in both the fens and on the other side of the North Sea there are already major drainage schemes to protect land which is below sea level.
The Environment Agency said the flood protection scheme in Ipswich, which was completed last year and includes a barrier across the New Cut, should protect the county town - even though some maps suggest the town could be at risk.
An Agency spokesman said: "The online data being used does not take into account the benefits of the £70mm Ipswich Flood Defence Management Strategy (IFDMS), which was officially opened earlier this year.
"The scheme significantly increases the standard of protection for the town and takes into account current climate change predictions."
The Ipswich scheme is designed to protect 1,600 homes and 400 businesses from the threat of floods as sea levels rise. It is designed to offer protection from anything less than a one in 300-year flood for the next century at least.