Numerous cities could collapse into the sea as climate change erodes coasts

Many residents fear their homes will disappear from the map as up to 200,000 homes are at risk of falling into the sea or being swallowed up by flood waters by 2050

Retreating Cliffs in Kent
Retreating Cliffs in Kent

Many coastal cities will disappear from the map due to erosion.

Many residents are now at serious risk of losing their homes to the sea, the Environment Agency has warned.

Rising water levels caused by global warming are eating away at our shores.

The latest report says that by 2050, 200,000 properties could be swallowed up by floods or toppled off a cliff.

And around a third of our coastline will come under pressure from sea level change, according to a study by Ocean and Coastal Management.

But not only the coastal towns are endangered.

A landslide due to coastal erosion on a Happisburgh beach


(Getty Images/Bloomberg Creative Photos)

Across England, more than five million properties are exposed to extreme weather conditions such as storms and heavy rain.

Happisburgh in Norfolk, Withernsea and Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Filey in North Yorks and Kessingland in Suffolk have experienced some of the worst levels of erosion in the past 20 years, according to a recent report.

Here we speak to three people living on the front lines of climate change.

The danger is greatly exaggerated here

Angela Thomas and Mike Thrussell moved to the quaint Welsh village of Fairbourne in 2013 – the same year it became the first place in Britain to be ‘closed’ due to erosion.

Gwynedd Council sparked outrage when it announced that due to rapidly rising waters, Fairbourne would be abandoned to the Irish Sea by 2054.

Mike and Angela could lose their home in Fairbourne


Gaia Lamperti/Al Jazeera)

But it was a terrifying experience for the 850 residents who had to witness the fall in property prices. And to add insult to injury, they were told they might have to contribute £6,000 towards the cost of having their homes demolished.

Angela said: “No one denies climate change, but Fairbourne has been singled out. We haven’t been flooded since 1924.

“The value of each property dropped by 40-50% when the closure was announced. And you can’t get a mortgage now, even though they say we should be fine for at least 30 years. It harms people’s well-being.

The Welsh village of Fairbourne in Gwynedd is under threat


(Getty Images)

“It looks a bit scary at high tide but there will be a lot of underwater spots off Fairbourne.

“I think the danger has been greatly exaggerated. London is never mentioned, but it will be one of the places most affected by sea level rise.”

The house in front of mine is going to be demolished

Nurse Nicola Bayless thought she’d found her dream home when she moved into a three-bedroom oceanfront home in 2004.

But now the mother-of-two suffers from sleepless nights and wonders how much of her belongings will be left when she wakes up in the morning.

She is frequently shaken by the sound of land crashing into the sea.

Helen Chandler-Wilde fears it will go away entirely


Paul Grover for the Telegraph)

Nicola, 46, who lives in the village of Happisburgh in Norfolk, said: “I knew erosion was a problem when I first moved in, but we’ve always been assured that – based on the survey – for a further 150 it won’t really be a problem.” problem would be years.

“But for the last 20 years, it’s been crazy. Large parts of the field were lost overnight. Every morning I have to see what’s left of the surrounding land.

“The cliff edge is now less than 50m from my house. In some places I would say it’s about 20m.

“The cliff is right behind the house in front of me that’s due to be demolished in the next four or five weeks. The owner had to vacate and now lives in another cottage down the road.

The village of Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast


Paul Grover)

“We’ve lost 60 cm of land in the last month, that’s a lot. My neighbor measured the street next to our houses.

“In December it was 8 m long. Now it’s only 12 feet. I have no doubt it’s climate change. When we have a lot of heavy rain, the cliff sinks because it is made of sand, mud and clay.

“I feel upset and let down. I am very worried about the future.

“I own this house, I live here and my children grew up here. I have so many ties to this house – and now I’m going to lose it.”

They said there would be erosion problems in 75 years, not now

Retiree Malcolm Newell first realized that coastal erosion was a major problem when his neighbor’s house fell into the sea two years ago.

He was forced to leave his home for three months while officials debated whether it was safe for him to return.

But Malcolm, 72, insists he won’t be pushed out again. “I’ll stay here until I push up the daisies,” he says.

Malcolm Newell ives on Surf Crescent in Eastchurch, Kent


Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

“I don’t care if the house passes or I pass with it. That’s it. No one will force me out of my house again.

“I intend to stay here and do the work that needs to be done. But really and truly it shouldn’t be us – it should be government departments, the Environment Agency and the Council, who have done absolutely nothing but stand in our way.”

Council engineers noted it would cost more than £25million to protect the 124 homes and 1,000 caravans at risk along the four-mile stretch of coastline near Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Danger falling rocks sign on the side of the cliff


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Local residents lobbied for biodegradable mats to be installed along the cliff in 2016 to slow erosion

.But Malcolm says it’s too little, too late. He is furious with Swale Borough Council and the Environment Agency for their ‘no active intervention’ policy on coastal defences.

He said: “Anyone who comes here can see exactly why I’ve made this my home.

The view is amazing. “When I moved here from mainland Kent in 2001 I was told that in 75 years there could be a problem with erosion

“But I don’t think I’ll be here for more than five to seven years if nothing is done.”

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