Planning for climate change needs to start today if we are going to meet the challenges of the future. This is particularly apparent on the coast where erosion and sea level rise will affect a large number of people and businesses over the long term.
We are working on the second generation of coastal plans which will help us do this.
Erosion has always been a problem on the Norfolk coast because of its exposed position and soft rock geology. The entire coast has been eroding throughout documented history, dating back around 1,000 years, and the historical record shows us that several villages have been lost entirely.
Erosion rates are between one and three metres per year, so it has become increasingly difficult and expensive to continue protecting certain locations - and trying to do so makes erosion worse in other areas along the coast. This will get worse as the effects of climate change increase.
What we did and why
We established a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) along the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline between Kelling and Lowestoft.
An original SMP produced in 1996 for this section of the coast had set out how it would be protected over 50 years but it was not able to address longer-term sustainability.
Now, second generation SMPs are being developed for the East Anglia coastline.
These will establish policies for managing each section of the coast over the short term (up to 20 years), medium term (20-50 years) and long term (50-100 years). These new plans consider a range of factors, such as sea level rise.
The new SMPs work with natural coastal processes and reduce the reliance on built coastal defences.
'The communities of northeast Norfolk have lived with coastal erosion and flooding for centuries,' says Gary Watson, Coastal Engineer for Norfolk and Suffolk. 'But as the effects from climate change increase, our plans need to look further ahead into the future to ensure that what we put in place can be sustained. It can mean challenging decisions in the short term - we are starting to place restrictions on future development in areas that are likely to be at risk from erosion and flooding - but its essential in planning for coastal change.
What happens next
We will be working with North Norfolk District Council to ensure that the policies in the Shoreline Management Plan are reflected in local planning documents, ensuring that future development takes account of climate change on the coast.