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Sea defences may not be repaired as battle with nature is lost

By WMNlynbarton  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

Porthcothan Bay, before the rock arch collapsed, is battered by storms

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Nature may be allowed to take its course along some of the Westcountry’s historic coastline which has taken a pounding in the recent storms.

High seas and heavy rain has left a trail of destruction in its wake, wrecking many stretches of coastal paths and battering age old rock formations.

But according to the National Trust and Natural England, a discussion is under way on whether it is worth reinstating breached sea defences in the face of a predicted increase in extreme weather events.

At Mullion Cove on the Lizard in Cornwall, the decision was made seven years ago that repairing the Victorian National Trust owned harbour may be fighting a losing battle.

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The policy of “managed retreat” was championed after the charity spent £150,000 in one year to try and stop damage caused by the sea may become common elsewhere, it has said.

“While in many places our coastline has shown itself to be remarkably resilient, there are places where changes are so dramatic that returning things to their former state seems increasingly unobtainable,” the National Trust said.

Phil Dyke, the trust’s coast and marine advisor, said Mullion Cove was a good case in point.

“In the face of rising sea levels and increased storminess it seems pretty untenable that we are going to maintain it in the long term,” he told the Sunday Times.

“It is a place in transition and we need to decide whether we repair it one more time or accept the fact that some of the structure will go.”

The trust removed sea defences at South Milton Sands in Devon before the storm.

It is thought some are counter productive as they prevent the movement of sand and sediment around which is part of the naturally changing coastline.

“The coast is all about change,” said Mr Dyke.

“Features we have today are as a result of erosion or accretion.

“We shouldn’t be too alarmist about it, accepting the fact that the coast is a dynamic feature.”

The recent storms have already had a major impact on the Westcountry coast at Porthcothan Bay, where a rock arch crumbled under the barrage of high seas.

Axmouth and Lyme Regis have also seen coastal features altered in the deluge.

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  • letigre  |  January 14 2014, 4:32PM

    like this sea level change you mean? Dropping if the maldives and the med is anything to go by. http://tinyurl.com/y92v37b

  • break  |  January 14 2014, 4:13PM

    They can't afford to maintain our sea defences,but they can afford to keep paying £100,000 every time the Thames barrier is closed.

  • jamesbaird  |  January 14 2014, 11:39AM

    Except Sea Levels around the world are rising. The South of the UK also suffers from isostatic fall in which we are also sinking whilst Scotland is rising out of the sea. Due to the end of the ice age and the weight of ice now is not pushing Scotland into the sea.. think of a see saw! While i cant comment on the amount of storms, to say sea level change isnt occurring is wrong.

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  • DipStick  |  January 14 2014, 10:08AM

    "In the face of rising sea levels and increased storminess .....". The only things wrong with that statement are the fact that sea levels aren't rising and there hasn't been an increase in storms. Apart from that he's got it right ...... DS

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