Council fears loss of community support as erosion aid dries up

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A COUNCIL has pledged to seek more funding to help communities affected by coastal erosion amid fears it may lose the support of residents when money for an innovative aid project dries up next month.

A £1.2m scheme funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is due to end in March, and East Riding Council, which administers it, said it was determined to explore other sources of finance to assist some of the most exposed households in England.

All of the money in the East Riding Coastal Change Pathfinder project (ERCCP) has now been allocated to households in the Aldbrough, Cowden, Hornsea, Skipsea, Tunstall and Ulrome areas, and 35 of them have been helped adapt to the impact of “coastal change”.

The scheme has also funded the demolition of 43 dangerous structures and properties.

Coun Jane Evison, portfolio holder for rural issues and cultural services, said: “The council cannot turn back the forces of nature but what we have for the first time been able to do through Coastal Pathfinder is to provide real practical support and assistance to people most at risk to coastal erosion .

“As the project comes to an end in March, I want to stress that we will not be resting on our laurels but will continue to lobby hard for additional funding, recognising the strong case for supporting people living on undefended East Riding coastline that does not meet the Government criteria for sea defences, and highlighting how much can be achieved with relatively small amounts of money.”

A council review of the scheme said residents’ expectations had been raised that assistance would continue to be available - and warned that much of the co-operation from the communities affected may be lost if aid is suddenly withdrawn.

It said: “As a result of communities gaining a better understanding of coastal change issues and management policies, demand for adaptation assistance is growing.

“The delivery of the ERCCP has inevitable led to a considerable increase in expectations for ongoing support amongst coastal residents.

“If funding is not made available on an ongoing basis there will be a loss of momentum and a real risk of communities being unwilling to work with the authorities in the future.”

It also notes that Defra has yet to publish guidance about the future funding of “coastal change adaptation measures”, or set a time scale for the publication of the national coastal change policy.

The ERCCP was not intended as a compensation scheme, but to provide practical support to those most at risk.

The money has been used to help with the cost of property demolitions and site restorations, which was previously born in full by residents.

In addition, financial support has been provided to cover practical relocation costs and for establishing residents in their new homes in safer locations.

People have also received money towards removals and the purchase of essential white goods and furnishings for their new properties.

The support offered to each resident has been based on an assessment of individual circumstances and the criteria set by the council.

There is also a small grants fund to enable individuals, groups and businesses in the East Riding to develop innovative approaches to coastal erosion and coastal flood risk management.

Earlier this week, a new report showed that rates of erosion have more than doubled on some stretches of East Yorkshire’s coast.

The average rate of land loss on the East Coast is 1.5 metres to 2.5 metres a year. But 10 metres was lost south of Withernsea and Hollym, while at Aldbrough, 8.5 metres disappeared, and at Waxholme, north of Withernsea, seven metres were lost to the sea.