Coastal communities around the UK have been left at the mercy of the rising sea

<span>Coastal defences on the beach in Happisburgh, Norfolk.</span><span>Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian</span>
Coastal defences on the beach in Happisburgh, Norfolk.Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Rachel Keenan’s account of the rapid and ongoing destruction of her home town of Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire, is stark, but sadly she is not alone (‘The fear has properly set in’: how it feels to watch my home town disappear into the sea, 21 May).

Here in Lowestoft, Suffolk, the tidal surge resulting from December 2013’s Storm Xaver left 158 homes and 233 commercial properties flooded, with many people made homeless. In response, improved floodwalls were completed in 2023, but in January 2024 the plug was pulled on the construction of a tidal barrier due to the emergence of a £124m funding gap. Instead of a flood defence system, Lowestoft has therefore been left with what worryingly looks a lot like a funnel.

Coastal communities have always been exposed to the forces of nature. However, more recently climate change has intensified risks along the UK’s North Sea coast, leaving low-lying communities and infrastructure with inadequate and outdated sea defences more vulnerable than ever.

We in the Use Your Voice Lowestoft group are convinced that the metric the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) uses to make its capital investment decisions perversely disadvantages smaller communities and ignores the economic benefits of improved flood protection. The metric should be reviewed and changed. Some 500 protection schemes have fallen foul of the metric. But only one of those has been revealed by Defra: Lowestoft.

It is true that government funds are available for flooding and coastal erosion projects. For example, on the north Norfolk coast, the villages of Bacton and Walcott, due to their proximity to the Bacton gas terminal, benefited from a sandscaping scheme, with £5m from central government. Elsewhere, many places such as Inverbervie, and Hemsby and Happisburgh in Norfolk, have been left to fend for themselves.

We who live in coastal areas need to promote a united front and demand that governments north and south of the border take action to protect our precious east coast.
Kate Stott
Use Your Voice Lowestoft, Suffolk

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