Power of sea raises concerns for end of lockdown

Tons of sand are being moved along the Skegness coast to repair beaches ravaged in recent high tides.

Recent spring tides removed sand from the beaches near Skegness.

The need for the work by the Environment Agency after the tides left deep gullies and rubble near the defences has underlined the power of the sea as we head towards winter and why residents along the coast remain at risk of more than just a pandemic.

How to evacuate thousands of residents and visitors in the event of a flood was the centre of the argument by Lincolnshire County Council and the Environment Agency as to why they opposed East Lindsey District Council's Local Development Order to extend the season.

In spite of caravan parks being closed and visitors instructed to return to their homes at the start of the second national lockdown, cases of Covid-19 across Ea\st Lindsey have soared placing the district in the top 10 worst affected areas in the county..

Rubble left on the beaches by recent high tides.

And now as December 2, which is the end of the current Government lockdown period, looms many are asking whether caravan parks should be allowed to re-open.

Flood warden Mr Gabbitas is insistent they shouldn't.

"We are coming up to the worse time of the year for tides and the threat to the coast from flooding," he said. "I have never seen so much devastation to the beaches at this time of the year as with the recent spring tides.

"This shows the power of the sea and we have the worse to come.

Environment Agency workers moving said on the beach at Winthorpe.

"There are more spring tides on November 30 and December 30 before the big ones in January and next spring.

"By coincidence the spring tides on January 28 fall with a full moon on the same date as when the coast flooded in 1953.

"It is good to see the Environment Agency is working hard to repair the beaches but replenishment was never the answer because the sea just takes the sand away again - as we saw recently."

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency described the current works as routine but said: “We fully understand that people may want to spend time in their caravans over the winter however caravan sites are particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of flooding.

Sand being moved on the beaches at Winthorpe.

“There is a higher risk of coastal flooding between November and March which is why restrictions are put in place to protect people during this time. Removing these restrictions would leave people living there at too great a risk.

“The Environment Agency carries out annual maintenance along the coast to ensure that beach profiles are wide and high enough.

"The work at Winthorpe is routine and expected at this time of year. We are moving sand away from areas with excess material to return the beach to its required profile and should complete all works within the next week or so.”

With just over a week before the current lockdown restrictions are due to be raised, Lincolnshire County Council stand by their objection to an extension to the season being allowed.

Environment Agency moving sand on Winthorpe beach.

Coun Colin Davie, executive councillor for economy and place at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "Following East Lindsey District Council's decision to adopt the LDO, we have written to the Secretary of State and government ministers to raise our concerns.

"In the event of coastal flooding during the winter storm season– one of the highest risks to life in Lincolnshire – we would question the ability to evacuate large numbers of people from multiple caravan sites in the time we would need to.

"Flood evacuation plans at individual caravan sites would not address this as they are produced in isolation simply to take people off-site, not to a place of safety. Extra demand on emergency services and local councils while we are under increased pressure from the ongoing Covid-19 response, could seriously put lives at risk."

TIDAL DEFENCES AND BEACH MONIITORING

The tidal defences between Mablethorpe and Skegness are made up of concrete structures behind the beach. The Environment Agency maintains the beach annually to ensure that its profile is wide and high enough. If the defence level is compromised in between these operations the Environment Agency will consider what action is needed and rectify the situation as appropriate.

Beach maintenance or ‘nourishment’ is undertaken every year and takes into consideration the winter weather and dynamic nature of the coastline. Recent weather conditions are very typical for this time of the year and we allow for some sand losses and beach changes.

Sand was removed from the beaches by recent strong high tides.

High tide levels are above land levels along much of this coastline twice daily, and there have been two tidal events in recent years that came close to flooding the Lincolnshire coastline.

With continued rises in water levels and the effects of climate change people with properties at risk of flooding are urged flooding to be prepared for a flood incident. More information is available at https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/plan-ahead-for-flooding

CARAVAN AND MOBILE HOMES OCCUPANCY

Lincolnshire has the highest density of caravans in Europe and removing the occupancy restriction during winter months is to remove the primary mechanism for managing flood risk at caravan sites. There is a higher risk of coastal flooding between November and March and the occupancy period that we support is between 15 March and 31 October (the only exception to this is when half term falls in November, when we support occupancy until the first Sunday in November).

This occupancy period is consistent with the East Lindsey Core Strategy, adopted July 2018, Strategic Policy 19(7). The occupancy period in the Strategy represents a balance between the demands of tourism and ensuring that this type of development, which is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of flooding, is not occupied at the times of year when flood risk is highest. Removing the occupancy restriction during winter months is to remove the primary mechanism for managing flood risk at caravan sites.

Any existing caravan site wishing to extend its current occupancy restriction under the Coastal Zone Local Development Order, recently approved by East Lindsey District Council, would need to undertake qualifying actions with East Lindsey District Council, including a Flood Risk Assessment and Flood Warning and Evacuation Plan.

Communities at risk of flooding urged to apply for a share of £200m resilience programme

A transformative £200m programme to improve the resilience of communities at risk of flooding and coastal change across England has been launched.

Through the government’s new Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme, managed by the Environment Agency, 25 areas will be selected to pilot new and creative approaches to improve resilience to flooding and coastal change.

This could include planting trees and restoring peatland to reduce run-off into rivers or making changes in people’s homes so they can recover more quickly after flooding.

Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) and Coast Protection Authorities (CPAs) are being invited to express an interest in becoming one of these areas, with a deadline of 15 January 2021. Each area will receive approximately £6m between 2021 and 2027. The funding is separate and in addition to the £5.2bn programme of investment in flood and sea defences announced by the government in the Budget in March. Areas will be selected based on a range of criteria, including repeated significant flooding in the past.

The rest of the money will support other flooding and coastal resilience activities including the development of long-term investment pathways in the Thames and Humber Estuaries, Yorkshire and the Severn Valley.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The impact of flooding can be devastating, and even more so for those who have suffered repeatedly. Our ambitious new Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme will help communities test different approaches to become more resilient to flooding and coastal change alongside our record investment to build and maintain our flood defences.

“This funding will not only help to build long-term resilience in those 25 areas, but the evidence and learning from those projects will be used to inform future approaches to, and investments in, flood and coastal erosion risk management across the country.”

LLFAs and CPAs will work together with partners to develop their expressions of interest by January 15, 2021. The 25 selected areas will receive some initial funding to develop their project proposals into more detailed plans during spring 2021, before the projects formally begin from summer 2021.