Sea-threatened Fairbourne villagers call for answers

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Media caption,

Fairbourne residents say they could become "climate change refugees"

People living in a sea-threatened village on the west coast of Wales are calling for answers over their future.

Sea defences at Fairbourne will stop being maintained in the 2050s, but Gwynedd Council said it may begin "decommissioning" the village before then and start moving residents out.

Villagers want more detail on when and how, saying uncertainty is devaluing homes and harming community life.

The council said it had met with residents more than 300 times.

Natural Resources Wales maintains the sea defences and a council consultation is taking place on Thursday and Friday to hear residents' views on options for the next few years.

But some say there also needs to be more discussion about what happens to them and their homes if the village is to be abandoned to the sea.

The council is leading a partnership to co-ordinate what happens in Fairbourne, and says some of the decisions about what happens in the long term are out of its hands.

It said it was forecast "that the engineering and financial challenges of protecting the village are likely to become insurmountable earlier than other areas".

There are "five specific plans which can be taken forward and developed by partner organisations over the coming years" to be considered by locals during the consultation, it added.

The plans focus on flood risk management, people and the built environment, infrastructure management, economy and business management, and natural environment management.

Image caption,
Fairbourne will be "abandoned to the sea" when defences are no longer maintained from the 2050s

Sylvia Stephenson, who lives in the village, said: "I don't really think that we'll get the answers to the questions that we want.

"The answers we want are: what are you going to do with us if we have a major event or you want to decommission the village? To decommission the village, you're going to have to take my house and my land.

"We own this house and we own the land, and the only way you can do that is with legislation. And that in turn has to mean compulsory purchase. I don't know if we're going to get any answers about that.

"I don't know if we'll get any answers at all about where they could put us all."

Another resident, Malcolm Flynn, said there was still scope for the authorities to look again at the long-term future of the village.

He said: "The council gave an undertaking that they would do their best to protect the village for 40 years. After that, anything could happen.

"It's like the guillotine hanging over you, waiting to drop. The council has relied on one consultant to give a view where I suspect there are many differing views and different things to check.

"Young people living here can't get a mortgage. Houses are cheap, but they can't get a mortgage because no-one will lend them money. Likewise older people who need equity release can't get it."

A Gwynedd council spokesman said it had held engagement events, workshops, visits and discussions, along with issuing quarterly newsletters to keep people informed.

It said all feedback from the consultation would be considered.

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