COASTAL EROSION could pose a greater threat to the UK than it does to the Netherlands, warned Hydraulics Research technical director Alan Brampton at a meeting of the Dundee area branch of the East of Scotland Association.
'Close to 80% of Britain's coast line is being eroded by the sea and, surprisingly, a greater area of England could be inundated by the sea than in the Netherlands, ' he said.
Brampton was in Scotland to give advice on shore line management to local authorities. He looked at legal powers and responsibilities laid down in the Coast Protection Act (1949) and Flood Protection Act (1961), covering circumstances in which sea defences should be provided or replaced and where the sea should be left, aided by gravity, to carry on its natural task of wearing away the land.
'At £1,000/m, the cost of sea defences is comparable with that of a motorway, and one must always ask the question: Is it worth the money?' he said.
The big problem in designing sea defences is estimating the peak wave loading, Brampton explained.
Prediction of wave action on coasts only started in 1944 with the invasion of France during World War II, Brampton noted.
The UK has not suffered many deaths as a result of marine inundation, but when 100km of coast protection was breached in the east coast floods of 1953, responsibility fell to the Army to place the millions of sandbags that prevented a far more serious disaster.
Brampton doubted whether, without being able to call on a huge reserve of conscripts, we would now be able to respond in the same way.
The approach to coast protection sees too many protection schemes considered individually. Development of comprehensive schemes is impossible while local authories work in isolation, he said.
He called for the coast line to be treated in integrated sections, with each requiring a specific management strategy.