Alright for some: London is protected by the Thames Barrier, built at a cost of $2bn in 2001 money (Wikimedia Commons)

Environment Agency: Rising sea levels will wash away 7,000 UK homes

30 December 2014 | By David Rogers 1 Comment

Some 7,000 homes around the UK will be swept away by the sea over the next century because it will be too expensive build sea defences, according to a report from the Environment Agency.

The research, contained in an unpublished agency report seen by The Guardian newspaper, also predicts that more than 800 buildings will be lost during in the next 20 years.

Chris Blunkell, a coastal community campaigner, told The Guardian that the government should learn from the “overwhelming” impact of last year’s storms. 

“Last winter’s storms saw the eastern seaboard overwhelmed,” he said. “If government won’t defend all people living on the coast, then it must make sure that they can move elsewhere, and that means compensating them for their loss. It’s wrong that the costs of climate change should be borne by the most vulnerable.”

Earlier this month, seven homes were badly damaged as the biggest tidal surge in 60 years hit the Norfolk coast. Three properties fell into the sea at the village of Hemsby and four more were seriously undermined.

Ray Mooney, who was inside his home as the storm hit, told the BBC: “I heard a crash and the whole back part of the floor caved in. Everything went down.”

He said he was assessing the damage but expected the property to be either demolished or washed out to sea. “This is my only asset,” he said. “That’s it, I haven’t got anything else. I had just done the house up to sell but now I have nothing. I’m homeless.”

Blunkell contrasted the sea defences for London with the rest of the country. He said: “During last year’s tidal surge, the biggest since 1953, some people on the east coast were evacuated from their homes and given a biscuit in the church hall. Yet Londoners could sleep easy protected by the Thames Barrier. A biscuit for some and a barrier for others is unjust, and such injustice will grow with rising sea levels.”

The population of London is protected by Treasury rules that say any coastal defence work must save £8 for every pound spent. This means that built-up areas with valuable houses are more likely to benefit from what public spending there is on sea defences. 

At present there is no compensation scheme for people who lose their homes to the sea. 

According to the report, the county most at risk from sea surges was Cornwall; more than 70 homes are expected to be swept away.