Coastal populations unaware homes are unprotected from potential flooding

Homeowners in UK coastal areas are not aware they have responsibility for their own flood risk management and have taken little steps to put in flood defences, according to research by the British Sociological Association.

The public is increasingly being relied upon to fund their own flood defences, since many projects are part funded by the Environment Agency, leaving costs to be picked up by the local area.  

However, only 12 out of 143 households (8%) surveyed in three coastal areas thought they were responsible for managing flood risk, with 85% believing the responsibility lay with the Environment Agency, 64% the local council and 55% the national government. 

As little as 8% of people living within six miles of the Lincolnshire coast had installed a pump, while 8% had bought sandbags, 2% had put up a protective barrier and 6% had built water resistant walls. 

houses near sea under cloudy sky during daytime

Dr Sien van der Plank, of the University of Southampton, who conducted the study said: ‘Despite the increasing message that the status quo cannot be the continued defence for all the English coast where it has been thus to date, the public continues to miss out on hearing that message, and therefore unsurprisingly continues to expect a widespread “hold the line” approach.

‘Results suggest there is a disjuncture between stakeholders’ perceived need for increased public debate on a longer-term, more joined-up vision for the coast, and a public, which is considered to be largely unaware, uninvolved and not feeling responsible for coastal flood risk management.’

45 senior engineers, insurers, landowners and council staff were also interviewed for the report and said the public assumed they were entitled to public expenditure to protect them from flooding.

One engineering consultant told Dr Sien van der Plank: ‘Some communities can no longer be defended – they have to recognise that they’re living on the wrong side of the defences and if they want to continue, they have to find other means of managing the flood risk, whether that be in terms of resilience or localised defences of their own.’

The issue is widespread with 370,000 homes having a higher than 0.5% risk of flooding each year and the estimated annual damage from coastal flooding reaching £400 million. 

Photo by Aleks Marinkovic

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