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Residents near fast-eroding shoreline could become 'climate refugees'

PUBLISHED: 12:51 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:51 05 November 2019

Happisburgh is one of the fastest-eroding parts of Britains coastline. This image was taken on Jan 14, 2019. Picture: Mike Page

Happisburgh is one of the fastest-eroding parts of Britains coastline. This image was taken on Jan 14, 2019. Picture: Mike Page

Copypright Mike Page, All Rights Reserved Before any use is made of this picture, including dispaly, publication, broadcast, syn

Coastal residents in Norfolk are at risk of becoming 'climate refugees' due to erosion, rising sea levels and climate change, it has been claimed.

Catherine Rowett, Green MEP for the East of England. Pic: Joseph CaseyCatherine Rowett, Green MEP for the East of England. Pic: Joseph Casey

It follows the release of a report by the House of Commons select committee on environment, food and rural affairs which called on the government to explain how floods and coastal erosion would be managed in the future.

The report focused on the village of Happisburgh, which has one of the fastest stretches of eroding coastline in Britain.

It quotes Malcolm Kerby of the local residents' Coastal Concern Action Group (CCAG).

Mr Kirby said there was a strong reaction to the end of a 'hold the line' policy aiming to stop erosion on that part of the coast.

An aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2010. Photo: Mike PageAn aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2010. Photo: Mike Page

According to the report, Mr Kirby said: "All we have had thus far is the government machine coming along, doing a shoreline management plan and saying, 'Sorry, guys, we are no longer going to protect you although we have done so for 50 years. Bye'.

"That is not adaptation, that is abandonment."

He added: "When I came into it, it was already war. The local authority engineer and the coastal manager did not like coming to Happisburgh.

"It was awful…Because we were pitched into a situation…[where] we were already too late.

An aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2001. Photo: Mike PageAn aerial view of Happisburgh's coastline in 2001. Photo: Mike Page

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"They were too late, and we were too late."

East of England MEP Catherine Rowett, from the Green Party, said: "Unless we start acting now, we face a future in which the people of seaside communities will become climate refugees.

"The government has to start listening to local people's concerns and has to prioritise real action that addresses the climate emergency."

The select committee's chairman, Conservative MP Neil Parish, said: "Coastal communities, businesses and landowners need to be meaningfully engaged about how the coast is likely to change and how it may affect them."

A government spokesman said: "Adapting to inevitable changes to our climate is vital, and we have been clear that we will take the action required to ensure our country is resilient and prepared for the future.

"We have already committed to invest £2.6 billion to better protect the country from flooding, delivering over 1,000 flood defence schemes which will better protect 300,000 homes by 2021. As part of this, over £1.2 billion will be invested to better protect 170,000 properties from coastal change."

MORE: 'We'll never move' - Happisburgh residents stand firm in the face of coastal erosion threat.







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