UK adaptations: Homes and buildings
You need to have Flash Player 10 or above installed to view this video
As the risk of flooding increases, UK residents may need to make major changes to flood defences and to the way homes and buildings are protected in some parts of the country. In the future, we might have to consider abandoning certain areas altogether.
Scientists expect rising sea levels to put some coastal neighbourhoods at risk of inundation. Plans are already under way to protect them by upgrading coastal defences. The different approaches, range from concrete sea walls to ‘soft defences’ which aim to strengthen the natural flood protection provided by beaches and dunes. In Lincolnshire, the local authorities have undertaken an extensive programme to protect 20 km of coastline by pumping large quantities of sand onto the beaches. This will raise the height of the beach and aims to protect 30,000 homes and businesses along that coast.
Scientists think that climate change is likely to put London at increased risk of flooding because of more extreme downpours and rising sea levels causing higher surges of water up the Thames Estuary. So the Environment Agency is evaluating the effectiveness of defences along the River Thames to ensure they’ll keep London and the communities along the estuary well-protected far into the future. Instead of constructing large concrete barriers, experts are proposing ‘soft defences’ such as planting vegetation and allowing unused areas of land to flood, so that vital areas don’t. Experts estimate that the Thames Barrier may need to be upgraded or replaced by about 2070.
Large-scale projects to protect against coastal or inland flooding can be expensive and this expense will increase if existing defences need to be upgraded or extended. In addition to the cost of constructing barriers in the first place, there are often significant running costs associated with pumping out the ground water that seeps underneath. There are already some areas of the UK where residents have been asked to pay for their own flood defences. Abandoning homes – or even whole towns – would be an extreme measure, but in future some communities might have to consider moving to higher ground.