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FUNDING FOR SEA DEFENCES 'WOEFULLY INADEQUATE', COUNCIL LEADERS SAY

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Tens of thousands of coastal homes could be at risk in the coming decades because funding to councils for the natio...
Tens of thousands of coastal homes could be at risk in the coming decades because funding to councils for the nation's sea defences is 'woefully inadequate', local government leaders have said.

The Local Governmnet Association has called for the annual budget for sea defences for councils of around£75m to be drastically increased. With fears of global warming and sea levels expected to rise by 0.3 metres over the next 50 years, the LGA is also calling for a more comprehensive long-term system of funding.

Councils are currently drawing up a new round of 'Shoreline Management Plans'. Millions of pounds are spent protecting coastal communities from the effects of erosion, including the construction of large sea walls and the building of artificial beaches. Plans and money allocated by the government have to strike a balance between protecting the coastline and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

Homeowners that have to abandon their homes because they are teetering on the edge are generally not able to claim through insurance.

David Sparks, LGA environment spokesperson, says: 'Britain is battered by waves every day and these vital defences protect our coastline from flooding and erosion. Many of our sea walls and defences are literally crumbling because they date back to the Victorian era and are reaching the end of their life. Other stretches of coastline where defences don't exist are becoming increasingly vulnerable, placing villages and homes at risk. Add to this fears of global warming and rising sea levels and councils are facing severe problems along stretches of the coastline.

'We need to strike a balance between protecting homes at risk and providing value for taxpayers' money. It would be difficult to justify a multi-million pound project to save just a handful of houses.

'But, the current annual budget of around£75m is woefully inadequate with such important works needed as a matter of urgency. This needs to be drastically increased to make sure that councils are able to protect towns and villages all round our coastline. We also need a long-term system for ensuring that these vital defences are properly funded in the decades that come.'

- Around 50 metres of a vital sea wall protecting Felixstowe collapsed in May. There were no Government funds for new projects this year so Suffolk Coastal District Council's£5m scheme to protect an estimated£400m worth of homes and businesses cannot proceed. Urgent talks have since been held with Defra.

- Scarborough BC case has identified expenditure on the town's Victorian coastal defences in the order of£35m over the next five years. There have been a number of failures along the coastline and there is concern that the situation is becoming critical.

- Changes to the coastline in North Norfolk will put several hundred houses, many in small coastal communities, at risk over the coming decades. In Happisburgh dilapidated defences mean that a number of homes are at risk. Attemptsby the council have failed to secure funding from government. However, the council is continuing to work with the government to manage the coast in a sustainable way that recognises the needs of coastal communities. On parts of the Norfolk coast there has been more than 175 metres of erosion since 1885.

- The National Trust, Britain's largest coastline owner, which expects more than half its 700 miles of cliff and beach to be severely damaged by erosion in the next 100 years.

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