The doomed Welsh village of Fairbourne in Cardigan Bay is to be abandoned to the sea after authorities decided it is not worth saving it when sea levels rise beyond 40 years from now because of climate change. Local residents are livid, saying the decision has been made on exaggerated predictions.
Put simply, Fairbourne will be left to sink into the sea because protecting it would be too expensive. Fifty other small towns and villages along the West Wales shoreline are facing a similar fate.
A ‘management realignment’ policy by Welsh authorities means Fairbourne’s sea defences will be scaled down over the next four decades. ‘Management realignment’ is bureaucratic jargon for ‘expenditure cuts’.
Fairbourne is a small coastal community of about 1,700 homeowners and 570 houses in South Gwynedd. 120 of the houses are holiday homes. It is built on land reclaimed by the sea. Its population is almost entirely aged 50+. (Image: ice.org.uk)
Faribourne, population c. 1,700, has 570 homes along the coast of Barmouth Bay, to the south of the estuary of the River Mawddach in Gwynedd.
House prices have crashed
Local residents are livid that politicians have decided to abandon them. House prices have plummeted since the announcement of the West of Wales Shoreline Management Plan 2(SMP2).
Local campaigners say it is wrong to make a decision based on an ‘exaggerated’ report, which claims that the sea level will rise by about one metre in the next century. Campaigner Pete Cole insists the sea will rise by just half-a-metre over the next 100 years.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr. Cole said:
“We have been hurt by the actions of the agencies who adopted these plans without thinking of the ramifications.”
The Fairbourne Facing Change Community Action Group (FCC), which was established in response to the announcement and aims to reverse the decision and protect the village, claims the BBC programme ‘Week in Week Out’, broadcast on 11th February, 2014, presented an inaccurate and unbalanced report of the situation.
The FCC added:
“This [the BBC programme], then followed with further inaccurate coverage culminating in unnecessary concern, anxiety, and panic for the community.”
“Evidence of the impact of the inaccurate coverage includes: written evidence of a significant reduction in the value of house prices, currently for sale and mortgages for properties in Fairbourne no longer available. In addition we have written evidence of house improvements and building works cancelled.”
This part of West Wales is susceptible to flooding. (Image: ice.org.uk)
The FCC says the purpose of its campaign is to get all local residents to actively challenge the inaccuracies of the reporting and coverage of the SMP2.
The FCC aims to inform, engage and involve the residents whose lives have been seriously affected by the situation “which could have been considerably lessened, had we been consulted and engaged at the time stated in the Council’s timeline.”
Gwynedd Council says commitement after 2042 ‘uncertain’
In a letter to estate agents, Gwynedd Council informed that based on current evidence, the village of Fairbourne will be defended from flooding for the next forty years.
Gwynned Council added:
“Whilst this timescale will be reviewed as more information about sea level rises and changes to ground water levels are obtained and defence techniques improved, the range of uncertainty is considered to be between 2042 and 2072.”
A satellite view of Fairbourne, a village that lies behind a sea wall. It is just a few feet above sea level. (Image: Google Earth)
Gwynedd Council’s Environment Cabinet Member, Councillor Gareth Roberts said:
“Whilst it is understandable that this sensitive matter has generated significant media interest, it is regrettable that this has led to unfounded concerns amongst local people and property-owners.”
“Contrary to what has been suggested or implied by some, the Shoreline Management Plan document categorically states that the aim is to maintain existing sea defences for the coming years – as things stand for the next 40 years – to reduce the risk of flooding.”
“Unfortunately however, as the SMP states, future changes in sea level and increased rainfall patterns raise significant concerns over our ability to defend Fairbourne in the longer term as the area enclosed between the sea defence and the railway embankment at the back of the village is very flat.”
Indeed, the level of the ground in this area is only just above normal sea level and before it was reclaimed and defended, this land would have regularly flooded on higher tides.”