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Friday, December 8, 2023





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Government Gazette

Coast beauty spots will be given up to the sea

Ten of Britain's most iconic coastal landmarks face being lost forever after conservationists admitted defeat in the battle against rising sea levels.


St Michael’s Mount

Experts have said it is no longer possible to hold back the long term tide and Britain's entire coastline will be dramatically altered in the coming decades.

The National Trust, which owns 700 miles of British coastline, said 10 of its most famous beauty spots are under threat and will be allowed to "evolve naturally" - shaped by the power of the sea.

They include the castle of St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall, Studland beach in Dorset, the white cliffs of Birling Gap in East Sussex, the dunes of Formby near Liverpool and the 18th-century fishing village of Porthdinllaen in Wales.

National Trust coast and marine adviser Phil Dyke said: "Over the next 100 years the shape of our coastline will change, and our favourite sea-side destinations may not look the way they were captured in our holiday snapshots.

"To try and predict what these places will look like in the future we have examined how sea-level rise and increased storms will affect all our coastal sites. We know where change is most likely to happen and what this change might be.

"We need to realise that our environment is not fixed and that change is inevitable. Society needs to learn to adapt." Sea levels rose by just 2cm in the 18th century, 6cm in the 19th century and 19cm in the 20th century, But the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates a rise of between 18cm and 59cm during this century.

Other scientists have put the figure much higher based on differing estimates of the effects of melting ice sheets in the Antarctic.

Last week the British-based Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory forecast a sea level rise of up to 1.5 metres by 2100.

White cliffs of Birling Gap

The cost of trying to protect the coast is prohibitive. In one case the National Trust estimated it would cost u6 million to protect just one spot in Cornwall for 25 years.

Among the Cornish spots that will bear the brunt of the rising tide is St Michael's Mount, a rocky pinnacle crowned by a medieval church and castle just off the coast of Penzance.

Its causeway to the mainland will vanish and it will become a true island with its harbour facing flooding.

In Sussex the gleaming white chalk cliffs that greet visitors from across the Channel are disappearing at the rate of one metre a year, and at Formby the sands will recede by a minimum of 400 metres over the next century, changing the shape of this coastline forever.

The Trust said the pretty hamlet of Porthdinllaen in Gwynedd, North Wales, with its 16 houses and the Ty Coch Inn, will inevitably be lost to the sea.

Other holiday spots at risk of being washed away by higher tides and increased storms include the magnificent beach and dunes of Portstewart Strand in Northern Ireland, which is visited by 100,000 people a year; Rhossili, one of the finest sandy beaches in the UK on the Gower Peninsula in Wales; and Studland Beach in Dorset which is visited by one million holidaymakers a year.

Also at risk are Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk, the shingle spit of East Head at the entrance to Chichester Harbour in West Sussex, and the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast which are home to puffin and seal colonies.

Other victims of the rising tide will include Titchwell Marsh, a major nature reserve on the north coast of Norfolk.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which owns the site, has embarked on what it calls a "managed retreat," abandoning a large part of the reserve to the sea.

Last week, the new head of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith of Finsbury, said entire stretches of Britain's coastline are doomed and plans will have to be made to evacuate people living there.

The 10 hotspots at risk from climate change, coastal erosion and rising sea levels, according to National Trust: St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall The white cliffs of Birling Gap in East Sussex Studland beach in Dorset The dunes of Formby, near Liverpool The 18th-century fishing village of Porthdinllaen on the north-west coast of Wales The puffin and seal colonies on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast The shingle spit of East Head at the entrance to Chichester Harbour in West Sussex The shingle spit and marshes of Blakeney national nature reserve in Norfolk The sands of Rhossili on the Gower peninsula in Wales. A sand-covered medieval village is also being lost to the sea Portstewart Strand beach and dunes, Northern Ireland.


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