September 2 2014 Latest news:
Simon Angear, Content Editor
Friday, November 15, 2013
WESTON’S sea wall could be raised by another metre and new flood defences built at Uphill if global warming continues to force sea levels to rise.
The possibility has been raised in a new beach management plan being drawn up by North Somerset Council, which is currently out to public consultation.
The authority wants to ensure it is has taken all suitable measures to protect homes along the Weston and Uphill coastline.
While the draft report says the bay’s new £30million sea defences are adequate to protect the north end of town from all but a once-every-200-years storm, it does say the wall could be raised in the future.
And while the dunes at the southern end are considered ‘relatively robust’, the council admits no formal studies have been carried out into the protection they will offer in the long term.
With the report acknowledging that ‘beach width is likely to reduce over time as sea levels rise’ council officers are preparing for the possibility that new man-made defences may be needed.
The report says: “The main objective of this beach management plan is to provide an assessment of the behaviour of the beach, relating this primarily to its key role as part of the defence system and how this interacts with other important uses and benefits the beach brings to the area.
“The significant socio-economic assets along this frontage justify a long-term plan to continue to minimise the risk of flooding and erosion to Weston, Uphill and the wider area of the Somerset Levels.
“The beach and dunes are important to tourism value in this area and are also important natural defences at Uphill.
“The plan will involve the appropriate management of the existing dune system at Uphill.
“Between Uphill and Weston the dunes may become unsustainable as a defence, therefore set-back defence may be required to minimise flood risk to people and property.”
Weston’s original sea wall was built to protect the town centre in the 1880s.
It has enjoyed a significant upgrade in recent years, but has been designed in a way that could see a further metre added to its height ‘should predicted climate change occur’.
However, high water marks have gradually migrated south over the past century, a trend accompanied by average annual rises of 1.5mm in sea levels.
This leads the report to conclude that ‘sea level rise is likely to be the main factor influencing the behaviour of the coast’, adding that Uphill is likely to be more vulnerable because ‘while the area around the Tropicana tended to stabilise, the indication is for continued growth of the southern beach area’.