520,000 Properties At Risk From Coastal Flooding?

By Paul Homewood


The CCC were very specific about the risks from coastal flooding, in their report last week:



Today, 520,000 properties in England, including 370,000 homes, are located in areas at risk of damage from coastal flooding


Half a million properties seems an awfully big number, and as a consequence had the expected reaction in the media, particularly with the forecast that 1.2m homes could be at risk come 2080.

Cue ridiculously overhyped stories, like Harrabin’s, implying thousands of homes would be swept away by rising seas.





So, just where did the figure of 520,000 come from?

For a start, the figure only represents properties with a flooding risk of 0.5%, ie once very 200 years.

But even then the figure seems inordinately high.

Let’s start by looking at the North Sea tidal surge in December 2013. According to the Environment Agency, this was the most serious tidal surge since 1953.

The 1953 event, which also occurred along the North Sea coast and was also the result of a powerful storm which coincided with spring tides, was without question the biggest flooding disaster of the 20thC. It left 307 dead in England alone, plus thousands more in the Low Countries.

The Environment Agency reckoned that the two events were similar in terms of sea levels, higher in some places in 2013, but lower in others.

Despite the severity of the storm surge in 2013, they estimated that only 1400 properties were flooded. For such a significant event, this is a tiny number, when compared against the claim of 520,000.

A much more detailed exercise two years later came to similar conclusions:





This particular analysis also looked at other flooding events that winter, but coastal flooding along the east coast only affected 3360 properties.

Part of the explanation for the vast difference between actual flooding and the number at risk may be the fact that many more properties were actually protected from flooding by flood defences. The provisional EA report above gave a figure of 800,000 properties. The later more detailed study came up with a figure of 719,589 (sic!).

But even back in 1953, the EA reckoned that 24,500 homes were damaged. If the EA are right, a similar number of homes were protected in 1953, even though flood defences in those days were presumably much more primitive.

There can be no question that flood defences have improved immeasurably since those days, when the country was still reeling from the war.

Of course, the North Sea coast is not the only part of Britain vulnerable to coastal flooding, but it is the one part where flooding has the potential to be so severe. Floods may occur in other regions, but tend either to affect sparsely populated parts or are short lived affecting areas just a few yards from the sea.

For instance, there is no comparison between, say, a few houses on Brighton promenade getting six inches of flooding at high tide, and the calamity that killed many people on Canvey Island or at Jaywick in 1953.


Either way, I see no evidence that 520,000 properties are truly at risk from coastal flooding. I have, incidentally, closely checked the CCC’s claims, and have failed to find any links at all to the number that they quote.

The EA of course like to brag about the number of properties their “actions” have saved. But these should be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism.

If the figure does include properties already well protected from floods, then what is the purpose of the CCC’s overinflated claims? Is it to generate a false alarm?

There is no doubt that massive improvements were made to North Sea coastal defences following the 1953 floods. And these were carried out despite the lack of resources available after the war.

Even assuming sea levels continue rising at their current rate, sea defences could be easily strengthened to cope with an extra few inches of sea level by 2080. If our ancestors did it 60 years ago, I’m quite sure we or our descendants in 60 years time can do the same.



November 2, 2018 at 05:34PM

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