Benefits of coastal erosion works to be assessed

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The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture will consider changing its policy of ‘managed coastal retreat’ if a working group finds the benefits of erosion reduction works on the west coast outweighs the costs to society.

Aerial photographs will be taken by the Department of Infrastructure in July to assess the rate of erosion.

Environment Minister Phil Gawne told Tynwald: ‘If the group establishes that calculated benefits of sustainable coastal erosion reduction works outweigh the costs to society in loss of housing, farm land and infrastructure, then the department will consider changing its existing policy of managed coastal retreat.’

Government’s policy of ‘managed retreat’ has been in place since 2000, but the Minister said he was alarmed to hear Kirk Michael residents’ reports that seven metres of coastline was lost in the last year.

A working group was set up in January to review government policy, best practice in the UK and to explore whether a scheme could be put forward to reduce coastal erosion.

It viewed the erosion on May 9, which indicated there had ‘probably been a greater than average rate of erosion’ due to the significant storms last winter.

But Mr Gawne said it was unclear if an increased frequency of storm events was materially increasing the average rate of erosion.

An option being evaluated is the construction of 100,000 tonnes of rock armour along the base of the cliff between Glen Wyllin and Balleira, at an estimated cost of £6-8m. This would be ‘likely to accelerate coastal erosion both north and south of its construction’.

Softer options include an offshore reef to slow down erosion.

As an alternative, the group will look at the potential for introducing a compensation scheme or fund to ensure the safe clearance of any properties destroyed by coastal erosion.

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