Warm welcome over system to monitor coastal areas

Warm welcome over system to monitor coastal areas

7 March 2018

PLANS to set up a coastal monitoring system in Northern Ireland have been given a guarded welcome by a local politician.

Cllr Cadogan Enright said community groups across the Lecale and Ards areas had been campaigning for the government to take notice of coastal issues for over a decade but nothing was done.

Last week, Cllr Enright represented Newry Mourne and Down Council at a meeting on coastal erosion and climate change hosted by the National Trust at the Titanic Centre in Belfast.

He explained that over the past 10 years, the only action on coastal issues has been driven by local community groups or non-government organisations like Conservation Volunteers, pointing out that the Downpatrick and Lecale area is the lowest-lying electoral area in Northern Ireland.

“Meteorologists are constantly revising upwards the impact upon the coast of climate change, with increased storms, flooding and erosion expected. But it is clear that to date there has been little acknowledgement of these issues from government in Northern Ireland,” said Cllr Enright.

“Unlike the devolution settlement in Wales and Scotland, this responsibility has not been clearly allocated to either a local or Westminster government department. 

“Most people in Northern Ireland live or work in a coastal area, making our coast one of our most important assets, contributing both to the economy and the quality of life. But we face rapidly increasing risks from coastal erosion and marine flooding.”

Cllr Enright revealed the National Trust is proposing a system of government-funded coastal monitoring as in the Republic, Scotland, England and Wales.

“This would provide an evidence base to develop a ‘national coastal change assessment’ for Northern Ireland, establishing a system of shoreline planning in the public domain. It is embarrassing that NI plc is only starting to think about this.”

“About 32% of Northern Ireland’s coastline is rock-armoured but, unlike the rest of the UK, no one government department is in charge of maintaining and caring for this legacy of centuries of coastal protection work.”

Cllr Enright said that in the absence of any department being in charge, there exists what is known as ‘the Bateman formula’ which makes each department responsible for its own assets, but makes no-one responsible for miles of legacy coastal protection.

He added: “Increasingly, there is a recognition that armouring the coast is a second-best solution to more natural sea defences like protecting and encouraging growth of sand-dune systems like one in Ballyhornan.

“I represent the local authority on the Drainage and Flooding Council for inland waterways and flooding issues in towns and villages and am aware that no government policy or overall strategy or plan exists for protecting coastal areas. I will continue to campaign for a solution for coastal protection.”