Storm shows up the risks

Huge waves at Seahouses north pier. Picvture courtesy of seahouseswebsite.co.uk
Huge waves at Seahouses north pier. Picvture courtesy of seahouseswebsite.co.uk

The ferocious weather events whereby high tides were combined with storm force winds resulting in severe damage to property and persons across the whole of Britain should be a wake-up call to all those with short memories.

It is estimated that the storms were the worst since the terrible events of 1953 when 800 miles of coastline were swamped by rising seas resulting in 30,000 people being evacuated from their homes, 24,000 properties seriously damaged and, sadly, 307 lives lost.

This time round we seem to have gotten off rather lightly.

In fact, Northumberland, in spite of Environment Agency flood warnings issued on the day, didn’t suffer anything like the catastrophe it could have done should things have been just slightly different.

If preceding the storm and exceptionally high tides, we had had heavy rainfall resulting in swollen rivers and had the wind blown from the east or north east instead of the north west as it did, the resulting flood damage could have equalled or indeed surpassed the terrible event of 1953.

This time disaster was averted but only by the chance events of nature as it unfolded on the day.

The storm of last week is a timely reminder that our Island coastline is forever changing and is constantly at risk.

It is also a timely reminder that once whipped up into a frenzy there is nothing that people who live by the coast can do except seek shelter, hope for the best and trust that whatever flood defences are in place do their job.

Fifty years or so between disasters both actual and near miss is a long time and memories get dimmed as the rose tinted view of living by the sea supplants the inherent risks of doing so.

Nowhere is this more obvious than through the planning applications that are constantly put forward to build on coastal land so that developers can exploit the demand to live on the front line of the elements between land and sea.

In spite of the risks there is always a premium for properties in these areas.

Over the last three years the village of Beadnell has had to defend itself against numerous, inappropriate planning applications to build on protected coastal land.

Thankfully, the councillors faced with making decisions about these applications have always turned them down.

Objectors have always stressed the vulnerability of this land to coastal change and flood risk.

Perhaps now, with the near miss we have just experienced, potential developers will finally get the message that attempting to build on these areas is simply a disaster waiting to happen.

Perhaps also, the council planning department will give short shrift to any planning application that is in an area of potential coastal flood risk.

To do the right and sensible thing in this regard will save those who wish to protect these natural environments needless time and money when faced with various attempts to build.

It will save the high costs of applications being allowed to progress through the system when from the start they have been unacceptable.

And of course, last but not least, it will save the inhabitants of these would-be properties the future trauma and disaster of possibly losing their homes, if not their lives, when next the seas decide to boil in rage.

Jim Norris,

Save Beadnell Association