Future coastal change in northern Devon

Hartland Cliffs

North Devon Council and Torridge District Council have published maps highlighting potential future coastal change around the Taw and Torridge Estuary in northern Devon. The maps are based on research carried out as a case study by the Coastal Processes Research Group at the University of Plymouth and was funded through the South West Partnership for Environmental and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP). The project also involved contributions from the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation - along with the respective local District Councils.

For northern Devon, the research highlights the areas, which could potentially be susceptible to future coastal flooding around the estuary. The research does not show what will definitely happen but rather a theoretical 'worst-case' scenario for what might happen over the next 100 years when taking account of potential rises in sea levels, associated with climate change. Looking to the worst-case scenario was intentional as it allows the Councils, and other partners, to really understand and positively plan for potential impacts arising from climate change and coastal change and to be able to apply a precautionary approach.

The series of maps show the areas that will be most impacted, along with how the pebble ridge at Northam Burrows and the dune systems at Braunton Burrows could roll back over time. The current research and the associated maps do not take account of any existing flood defences, nor reflect any future works for protection, which have the potential to reduce the potential impacts.

The main purpose of the research is to provide evidence to feed into the proposed update to the local plan, which sets out how northern Devon is intended to develop into the future. It will allow the Councils to define a so-called Coastal Change Management Area (CCMA) and help Councils plan for the types of development that should be allowed around the coast in particular places and circumstances. It will also be used to determine which uses might need to be relocated or protected.

It's hoped that the research will form the basis for further debate amongst communities, stakeholders and partners on the potential impact of unchecked coastal change. It also recognises that for some places and communities the indicated impact could be far reaching and profound. The research will also complement the wider work of the Councils in their roles as Coastal Authorities and provide evidence to support the case for funding towards projects such as flood defences and opportunities for habitat creation.

Cllr Claire Hodson, Chair of the Northern Devon Coastal and Estuary Working Group and Deputy Leader for Torridge District Council said:

"This research is really useful in stimulating the debate about how we plan for and manage the potential impacts of coastal change in the future. Whilst the maps might be concerning on first inspection, I think it's important to note that they are not intended to show what will necessarily happen in reality but rather what could happen in a worst-case scenario and if we don't look ahead to plan and manage the change. This is only a first step and clearly there is much more to do on this important topic."

The research can be viewed here https://www.torridge.gov.uk/ccma 

21 May 2021