ADAPTABILITY and pragmatism will be the National Trust’s policy to meet the twin pressures of rising sea levels and extreme weather, says the South West’s marine adviser Tony Flux.
Mr Flux, speaking from the Golden Cap estate this week said the recently released National Trust report ‘Shifting Shores – adapting to change’ was a fresh look at all the trust’s coastal estate in the light of climate change.
He said: “We recognise and accept the coast is changing, it always has, but the thing that is different today as opposed to 300 years ago is that it is changing much more rapidly.”
This meant, he said, that since 1900 the English Channel has risen 19cm.
He said: “The consequences might seem very marginal but in fact they are quite noticeable, particularly on our shallow beaches like Charmouth and Burton Bradstock, which means the high tide marks are much further inland.”
He said the report says it’s the thinking that has to be adapted to meet these changes.
He said: “What we are saying is the best approach is to allow natural processes to work unhindered – not to try and hold back the tide.”
The exceptions are where there is a lot of infrastructure – as in the flood defence works in Lyme Regis.
He said: “That is perfectly understandable, acceptable and reasonable – you have so much infrastructure there.
“It would be unrealistic to say: ‘Let it all go’.
“But where there is small amount of infrastructure – a few houses or a coast path, the cost of trying to defend is not outweighed by the value of the infrastructure.”
The trust has now looked at every single one of its properties and made an assessment on how to respond to the changes, and in West Dorset that is mostly concerned with the coast path.
He said: “At Burton Bradstock we noted 10 years ago it was getting very close to the edge. We know that is an eroding coast line – how would you defend that particular piece of coast, it is virtually impossible and who would want to see concrete walls all the way along?
“There will always be a coast path, wherever the coast is. There might be more detours and it might be more convoluted but the coast path will align itself to the coast as much as is safe, realistic and practical.”