The relocation of at risk communities may need to be considered as part of flood protection says team leader at the National Infrastructure Commission.
“There are real issues around the sustainability of some of our coastal communities,” said National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) team leader Matt Crossman.
Speaking at the New Civil Engineer Flood Management Forum, Crossman said that coastal communities may need to consider relocation to protect themselves from flooding.
“I think we do need to look really seriously at how we can make these communities sustainable,” Matt said.
“Also we need to acknowledge where communities are not sustainable and we need to enable those communities to adapt effectively to the challenges ahead, and this includes relocation.”
“We cannot continue with the coastline we’ve got indefinitely,” he added.
Relocation is already a reality for one small coastal community in north west Wales.
The 500-home village of Fairbourne in Cardigan Bay is faced with a uniquely bleak situation that could soon affect other communities.
Sitting on the coast and threatened by rising sea waters and erosion, the low land of the village is surrounded on all other sides by the Snowdonia National Park and rivers, meaning a rollback is impossible.
Gwynedd Council senior project manager for flood and coastal erosion risk management Lisa Goodier, who was also at the Flood Management Forum, said that while Fairbourne is a unique example now, it is a sign of things to come.
“It is reasonably unique, but it won’t be in future, there will be a lot more places like Fairbourne,” she said.
“There is nowhere else to retreat for this village so we can’t simply move them back because of Snowdonia national Park. Therefore, we are planning to decommission Fairbourne starting in 2045 which is not very far away, with the aim of not needing to defend the village [against flooding] by 2055.”
The decommission of Fairbourne has also revealed many challenges not previously considered, including asbestos lining on water pipes which cannot be allowed to contaminate the sea water and will have to be removed.
The decommission also presents challenges for infrastructure should the residents be homed nearby, Goodier added.
“People want to know how they will integrate into new communities, will the doctors be big enough, will there be enough roads, and where are the additional houses going to come from?” she said.
If one thing was clear from Goodier’s presentation, it is that the industry needs to look at what is happening in Fairbourne so that is it better prepared for the future, because Fairbourne will not be the last.
According to the Committee on Climate Change, 100,000 homes will be at risk of coastal erosion in the UK by 2080, long after Fairbourne has slipped beneath the waves.