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You are in: Suffolk » Don't Miss » 1953 East Coast Floods

Wednesday 29th January, 2003 - 12:23 GMT
Flood and coastal defences
A flood gate in Felixstowe
A flood gate in Felixstowe

Since the 1953 East Coast Floods, coastal defences have been greatly improved.

SEE ALSO

Flood defence: Then & Now

1953 East Coast Floods

BBC Weather:
East Coast Floods 1953

WEB LINKS

Met Office

Environment Agency

Weather Quest

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FACTS

1953 EAST COAST FLOODS:

307 people drowned

24,000 homes flooded

1,200 breaches along 1,000 miles of coastline

160,000 acres of farmland flooded

46,000 livestock lost

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WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

The Environment Agency is responsible for safeguarding places where the land is low-lying, for example, places where a sea wall has had to be built to protect the land.

Local councils are responsible for the other parts of the coast, which have higher land (usually cliffs), where the problem is not flooding, but erosion (e.g. Dunwich in Suffolk).

In estuaries, the same thing applies, but it is the landowners, not necessarily local councils, who have to look after places where land is eroding.

IN SUMMARY...

On the one hand, organisation and culture and the number of organisations involved in land drainage/flood defence have changed little over the past seventy years - for instance the raising of money locally, the support through central government grant and the fact that there is still a plethora of organisations with responsibilities for flood defence in England and Wales.

On the other hand many aspects of how the business is run have changed dramatically:

  • the move from land drainage for food production to flood defence for people and property

  • seeking of sustainable solutions against a background of climate change

  • national direction of policy and practice

  • a move away from the reactive construction of defences after flooding to a more proactive strategic planning of defences

  • prevention through protection of flood plains and land use by regulation

  • research and development that is based firmly on user involvement and practical application.

WORKING WITH NATURE & NOT AGAINST IT

Some may argue that we should leave nature to take care of itself and not build flood defences. Others wonder why we can’t just build sea walls around the whole of our coastline.

According to the Environment Agency, we need to work on both of these fronts.

Sea walls, flood banks, beach recharge, groynes and tidal barriers are traditional, well tried solutions, however as sea levels rise we need to work with nature rather than against it. This can be done by:

  • Studying the effect of existing man-made defences on natural processes, helping us to plan sustainable solutions which are both cost-effective and reduce impact on the environment.

  • Creating valuable habitats like saltmarsh and mudflats, which provide natural flood defences, by breaking down wave energy.
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