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Make best use of time to prepare for sea level rise, says coast flood expert

PUBLISHED: 18:51 13 October 2018 | UPDATED: 20:26 13 October 2018

Tidal surge at Felixstowe December 2013   Pic: Allan King

Tidal surge at Felixstowe December 2013 Pic: Allan King

Allan King 14 IP4 4PP 2

It’s “crucial” people understand sea levels will rise along the East Anglian coast, says flooding expert at Suffolk conference.

John Curtin speaking at the Suffolk Coast Forum    Pic: Nick DaviesJohn Curtin speaking at the Suffolk Coast Forum Pic: Nick Davies

A rise in sea levels around the UK, including along the East Anglian coast, is inevitable before the end of the century and it is crucial the country makes best use of the time preparing for the impact, a leading expert on coastal flooding has said at a conference in Suffolk.

Executive director of flood and coastal risk management for the Environment Agency, John Curtin, presented at the Suffolk Coast Forum, held at Wherstead Park in Ipswich on Friday. The annual event attracts local authorities, scientists, engineers and representatives of various agencies involved in managing the region’s dynamic coastline.

Speaking after his presentation, Mr Curtin said: “The issue of coastal erosion and sea level rises is a global issue and it is absolutely crucial that people understand that sea level rises will happen – this coast isn’t static.

“Our choice is how we use this time up until sea levels rise. Let’s use this time constructively rather that saying yeh and ney to each other.”

The aftermath of the tidal surge at Southwold December 2013  Pic: Mike PageThe aftermath of the tidal surge at Southwold December 2013 Pic: Mike Page

Estimates of the extent of global sea level rises have ranged from ½metre to 2metres, depending on global emissions, and much-anticipated up-to-date information is due to be published next month - the findings of which are expected to drive coastal flood management policy for the next generation.

“They will be telling us up until 2100 what the likely sea level rise will be plus the level of storminess - I suspect is it is how things are going to get worse not better,” said Mr Curtin, who argued that any coastal defence strategy needs to include both man-made sea walls and barriers as well more natural defences such as allowing some land to flood and developing saltmarsh.

“The key for me in this conversation between traditional grey engineering and the green approach is you need both. Too much of the debate has been either one or the other – actually you need a combination.

“Engineering has done fantastic things and will do fantastic things but nature and the coast is not a static beast and will want to keep moving,” he added.

Tidal surge at Old Felixstowe, December 2013Tidal surge at Old Felixstowe, December 2013

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the great floods of 1953, when hundreds of people along the east coast lost their lives including at Felixstowe, Jaywick and Canvey Island, and five years since the 2013 east coast tidal surge, which caused substantial damage to property.

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