In February 1953 disaster struck Essex. The North Sea flood, a combination of high spring tide and a severe wind storm caused a storm surge. With the tidal surge of the North Sea the water level locally exceeded 5.6 meters. The flood and waves overwhelmed sea defences and caused extensive flooding. Essex, an area hit by subsidence and sea level rise relies highly upon sea defences. Most of the casualties occurred in the province of Jaywick, in Essex 307 people were killed and 22,000 made homeless.
This flood also hit the Netherlands, which suffered 1,800 deaths. As subsidence and sea level rise grow worse due to global warming, there is a large chance that Essex if hit by a storm surge again will be very vulnerable. Essex is made especially defenceless as it has also been hit had by isostasy. And this is why I eager you to make a decision upon who we will defend our Essex coastline.
There are several areas in Essex becoming increasingly susceptible to flooding. In order to protect these areas action must be taken. This plan provides a long term strategic view on how the balance between losses and gains to Essex can be maintained in the light of rising sea levels, and the flood defence response to it. The plan concludes that Essex cannot be maintained in its present form. Maintaining the present levels of flood defences will lead to loss of significant areas of salt marsh by 2050.
The present strategy was developed to look at the economic viability of the existing defences within each of a series of sectors of shoreline, to address the environmental issues. With sea levels expected to rise over the next 100 years, and with areas of land behind the current defences several meters lower than the normal high water, steps must be taken to ensure that the response to change in the risk of flooding is appropriate. The production of a flood management strategy will enable us to manage the potential impacts that natural change will bring and also allow opportunities associated with such change to be identified at a strategic level.
There are five main management options available to Essex.
o Option one provides that nothing should be done. Thus allowing the land to erode away. However, this option would be very unsustainable, and in the long term will mean extensive land loss.
o Option two provides for the decision to deliberately allow parts of the coastline to be allowed to flood or be eroded. This has already taken place in Tollesbury (Essex), and was the first large scale managed realignment attempt in the UK. This would be sacrificial, as the few would be sacrificed for the many in land.
o Option three provides for holding the line. This would mean placing a sea wall along the coastline in attempt to hold the shore line and strop it from being eroded.
o Option four provides for moving seaward. This would mean defining a line in a seaward direction and build up to it by reclamation. This would also mean more land would be gained, and could be used for economical benefit.
o Option five provides for limited intervention. This often encourages the succession of haloseres including salt marsh and sand dunes. These results in the land behind the haloseres are sufficiently protected.
Although protecting the coastline means Essex will not be eroded or constantly flooded, many different people live in the area and will be affected by the decision made.
A Government Spokesperson said
“The cost of maintaining the sea defences along many parts of the Essex coast is greater than the benefits of those defences. The land is poor-quality farmland. It doesn’t make sense to keep paying for the maintenance of structures like groynes. ”
A farmer said
“The council should be strengthening sea defences all along the Essex coast like they have at Jaywick. My family has lived here and farmed this land for generations. The old embankment has kept the sea out for many years. I don’t believe a rise in sea level of a few centimetres will make any difference.”
A Government housing minister said
“The UK is experiencing a housing crisis. It is estimated that at least an extra 223,000 new houses or flats are needed every year. This is an extra 3 million homes between 2007 and 2020. The greatest demand for ne housing is in the south-east of England. One location where we want to see s lot of new homes is in the Thames Gateway which is on both sides of the Thames estuary. We need a coastal management plan that will protect all of this new housing for at least the next 100 years.”
An Environmentalist said
“If managed realignment is to take place we need to prioritise areas. Such as fresh water sights which are good for breading birds. We recognize we can’t protect Elmsly forever in the face of sea level rise and climate change but we think that other sites which are less important should be realigned over first. And we would like to protect Elmsly for as long as we can.”
We can see many people have different responses but on consideration of there I have decided to opt for managed realignment as our way of protection the Essex coastline. Areas of the coast are allowed to erode and flood naturally. Usually this will be areas considered to be of low value- e.g. places not being used for housing or farmland. The advantages are that it encourages the development of beaches (a natural defence) and salt marshes (important to the environment) and all at low cost. Managed realignment is a cheap option, but people will need to be compensated for loss of buildings and farmland. This will also allow for shorter more sustainable defences can be built further in land. Allowing these less valuable areas to flood will mean the more densely populated areas will be saved. This land will ultimately be sacrificial.