Tuesday, 11 August 2015

What future for coastal communities?

There has been a lot of interest in the 'future of coastal communities':
Futures Forum: Coastal Communities Fund and the South West
Futures Forum: The Blue New Deal from the New Economics Foundation: "In Sidmouth, it could influence the beach management plan, help the town access forthcoming EU funding or drive a regeneration of Port Royal from the ground-up." 

This piece on the subject comes from the Arthur Rank Centre:

Monday, 10 August 2015 08:34

What future for coastal communities?

What future for coastal communities?
We are an island nation. None of us apparently lives more than seventy-five miles from the sea. Many people feel a strong connection to the coast – as a place for leisure and fishing or for trade, industry and power generation. Others recognise it as a place where the powerful force of nature is never far away.
This leads both Government and Local Authorities grappling with how best to provide financial assistance and infrastructure. Our coastline is constantly changing and evolving. So how are we adapting to this changing shoreline and are we delivering benefits for communities and nature as we do so? Jessica Sellick investigates.

The UK experienced spells of extreme weather between mid-December 2013 to early January 2014 and again from late January to mid-February in 2014. A succession of major storms led to strong winds and huge waves making conditions extremely dangerous around coastlines and causing flooding inland. There was widespread disruption - who can forget images of the railway line in Dawlish hanging in mid-air or farmer James Winslade frantically saving his cattle from the rising floodwaters in Somerset? Debates once again opened up about how we manage and fund flood risk as well as support affected households and businesses. What have we learnt from these events? And how are we supporting coastal communities? I offer three points.

First, who or what is at risk from flooding and how is our coastline changing?
In England, responsibility for flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) rests with the Environment Agency, lead local flood authorities, district councils (if there isn’t a unitary authority), internal drainage boards, water and sewerage companies and Highways England.
The Cabinet Office’s ‘National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies 2015’ (NRR) lists coastal flooding as one of the highest priority risks, on a par with pandemic influenza, widespread electricity failure and terrorist attacks.
The Environment Agency (EA) currently estimates 2.4 million residential and commercial properties to be in areas at risk of flooding from rivers and sea. This includes 247,000 properties (of which 155,000 are residential) to be at ‘high risk’, i.e., they have a greater than 1 in 30 chance of flooding in any given year. Of those areas affected by the winter storms 2013-2014, the EA identified 890 projects requiring urgent attention. Between 2014 and early 2015, 111 new flood and coastal risk capital management schemes were completed thus reducing flood risk for 31,700 households and coastal erosion risk for a further 1,000 households. The EA estimates 700 properties could be lost to coastal erosion by 2030, and over 2,000 could be lost by 2060. And these figures already take into account the interventions proposed in Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs).
Back in December 2014, the EA published its six-year capital programme of works. This sets out how £2.3 billion of Government funding will be invested between 2015 and 2021, supplemented by £345 billion of partnership funding, to offer better protection to 300,000 households.
During 2014 and early 2015, 2,446 people used the Property Protection Advisor - a tool on the National Flood Forum's website to find advice on the cost and range of property protection measures they could use to the protect their homes. And between 2013 and March 2015 Defra spent £4 million through a ‘Flood Risk Community Pathfinder Scheme’ to support 13 local community partnership projects.
These were in Blackburn, Buckinghamshire, Calderdale, Cornwall, Devon, Liverpool, Northamptonshire, Rochdale, Slough, Southampton, Swindon, Warwickshire and West Sussex. These were individual projects developed by the Local Authorities to meet local needs. A Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the scheme by Defra in 2014 sought to understand the meaning of the term ‘resilience’ and its role in building resilience to flood risk management.
Following the winter floods a range of data studies are being carried out. The EA is analysing the costs of the 2013-2014 flooding and is due to publish an updated Flood Cost Calculator. The EA is also working with Met Office, National Oceanography Centre and other bodies to review coastal flood forecasting in the UK and abroad so as to design a support tool to measure the reliability of new national performance targets and guide investment planning (due to be published in November 2015). The Multi Coloured Manual and Handbook have been revised for 2015.
These documents contain data on the benefits and costs of investment decisions for FCERM. The EA, Local Authorities or Drainage Boards are carrying out a variety of capital schemes and maintenance works. At a policy level, Defra is undertaking a post-implementation review of parts of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to assess whether Sir Michael Pitt’s ambitions for better local flood risk management are being realised (due to report in November 2015).
While the EA’s six-year programme has been positioned around providing “visibility, stability and opportunity” in flood risk management and funding, it is predicated on efficiency savings of at least 10% from the EA over the programme period as well as securing at least 15% of the total investment from partners. With Spending Review 2015 taking place and Defra being asked to plan for cuts of between 25% and 40% over the next four years, how can we ensure continued flood protection for coastal areas and/or new protection? Will any reductions in investment be ‘coastal proofed’?
This is important because capital scheme funding is often dependent on the number of houses protected, the damages prevented and other benefits a project would deliver which can sometimes favour urban areas. Going forward, where/if there is a shortfall in funding; will local contributions be made available to supplement Government funding? And if more accurate data and information is emerging who and how will it be used to help those living and working on the coast?

Secondly, what should not be forgotten in the modelling and forecasting is local knowledge: people who live on the coast where these physical processes and flooding events are experienced first-hand. How are/can communities make an active contribution to the studies outlined above?
When the Prime Minister Back launched the ‘Big Society’ to herald a culture change where people in their everyday lives would no longer always turn to Local Authorities or central Government for answers to the problems they faced, it is clear this reform agenda set in train in 2010 now pervades coastal management. In May 2015 the EA published four reports to evaluate the benefits of working with partners in FCERM activities.
Examples cited include: The Lincolnshire Flood Warden Scheme, Cornwall Community Flood Forum, the River Stewardship Company in Sheffield and the Bodenham Flood Protection Group in Herefordshire. Here volunteers were seen as adding value by building community resilience and preparedness and helping to make people more self-reliant.
The National Trust looks after 775 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – making it the largest coastal landowner: did you know a small cliff top perched high above Barmouth in North Wales was the first site acquired by the National Trust? The Trust’s vision of our ever changing shoreline and shifting shores pamphlet seeks to outline a new approach to planning and managing the future coast.
In particular, the Trust is opening up a dialogue between ‘hard choices’ (the use of rock and concrete, traditional responses to coastal change) versus ‘making space for change’ (working with natural processes not against them: including making decisions about not to protect, or whether to buy time or relocate assets).
The National Trust has designated 2015 ‘the year of the coast’. To coincide with #lovethecoast, a soundmap project has been organised by the British Library, the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and audioBoom Ltd. What does the UK coastline sound like during the summer of 2015? The public can upload their favourite seaside sounds to help build a permanent digital resource of UK coastal recordings.
On 20 July 2015, Fan Bay Deep Shelter opened to the public. Lying some 75ft below Dover’s chalk cliffs, the shelter was built in 1941 by the Royal Engineers as part of a chain of gun batteries along the English coast. The National Trust has worked with volunteers to clear and conserve the tunnels and it is volunteers who are providing guided tours.
The Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) was established in August 2015 in response to these physical and human processes affecting our island heritage. This community archaeology project is working in the areas of England exposed at low tide but covered at high tide to actively promoting site recording and long-term monitoring programmes. The recording and monitoring is led by volunteers who highlight significant, fragile and threatened archaeological sites around England’s coast and on the foreshores of our tidal estuaries.
These initiatives highlight the shift away from traditional direct management by the EA or landowners to an evolution in partnership working and the importance of volunteers.

Thirdly, our coastline is also seen as a place for creating jobs, prosperity and growth.
Data from Savills shows house prices are rising in sailing towns – with many enjoying a revival as young families eschew urban life to raise children in the bracing sea air within sight of a marina.
In July 2015 the Government provided more than £1 million to fund 104 further Coastal Community Teams (CCTs), on top of 12 existing pilots, to help bring jobs, growth and prosperity back to beach towns and cities. The teams – bringing together local business, councils and people – will help coordinate regeneration projects in their area.
CCTs can apply for Coastal Revival Fund monies (the deadline is 14 September) and help shape the next tranche of the Coastal Communities Fund. While many Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) main programmes now closed to new funding applications and due to end their operations in December 2015, how will the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) be developed? Will it place a greater role on protecting the marine environment and/or aspire to maintain a close relationship between the fishing industry and local communities?
While these announcements and funding streams are welcome, they should not overshadow the very real and significant social and economic issues many coastal communities face (e.g. low wage, low skills, seasonal jobs, high levels of benefits, ageing and transient populations) which are well rehearsed and taken up by organisations including the Rural Services Network and the Coastal Communities Alliance.
How, then, can we protect coastal ecosystems as well as consider these issues around the economy and access to services? How can we ensure that initiatives are not undertaken in isolation (i.e., targeted at physical processes or jobs and growth)?
The ‘Anthropocene’ has captured the public imagination. The idea that humans have created a qualitatively different planet from the one we inherited has been advancing new projects, agendas and critiques (will a new geologic epoch be declared?). How will this Anthropocene proceed on our coastline? I am sure there will be some difficult decisions ahead about where the boundaries lie between natural/physical processes and human lives/uses.

Jessica is a researcher/project manager at Rose Regeneration; an economic development business working with communities, Government and business to help them achieve their full potential. She has particular empathy and enthusiasm for coastal issues; believing this to be a frequently neglected area of public policy with an often misunderstood context.
Jessica’s work in coastal places includes the development of a strategy for the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Fisheries Local Action Group and various business and community led regeneration initiatives on the East Coast. She can be contacted by emailjessica.sellick@roseregeneration.co.uk or telephone 01522 521211. Website:http://www.roseregeneration.co.uk/ Twitter: @RoseRegen

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