Nearly 200,000 properties across England may have to be abandoned due to rising sea levels by 2050, according to a new report published this week.

It looks at where water will cause most damage and whether defences are technically and financially feasible.

There is consensus among scientists that decades of sea level rise are inevitable and the government has said that not all properties can be saved.

About a third of England’s coast will be put under pressure by sea level rise, the report says.

It also indicates that coastline in Sedgemoor and North Somerset is vulnerable.

It examines how rising sea levels caused by climate change, combined with erosion of foreshores by waves, are increasing coastal flood risk, and warns it may not be possible to protect some communities.

The team behind the report say there is an urgent need for a national debate about the flooding threat to coastal communities, and for long-term clarity on “transformational change” in some areas, including rolling back defences and moving properties.

The new study, which is published in the journal Oceans And Coastal Management, compares the rising risk of coastal flooding with existing policies for managing the coast.

It says England could face around 35cm (14in) of sea level rise compared to historic levels by 2050 and is nearly certain to see close to 1m (3ft) of sea level rise by the end of the century, the study said.

For 1,000 miles of English coastline there will be high pressure to rethink the current policy to hold the line as it may become unfeasible due to rising costs, or technically impossible, the study says.

This accounts for around 30% of the coastline where hold-the-line policies are in place, and could affect around 120,000 to 160,000 properties – excluding caravans – by the 2050s, with a proportion likely to need relocating.

According to the study, it’s not possible to say how many of them will have to be moved, as that will be a matter for Government, policy and funding for flood defences.

The figure is on top of the 30,000 to 35,000 properties already identified in areas which have a policy to realign the coast.

The areas that sea level rise may affect:

  • North Somerset
  • Sedgemoor
  • Wyre
  • Swale
  • Tendring
  • Maldon
  • Suffolk Coastal
  • North Norfolk
  • Cornwall
  • Medway

Paul Sayers – the lead author – is an engineering consultant working with the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre.

“It just won’t be possible to hold the line all around the coast,” says Paul. “These are the places we are going to hold, and these are the places we’re not going to hold, so we need that honest debate around how we’re going to do that and support communities where they are affected.”

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