Coastal Erosion Coast


Coastal Erosion

Nicholas Crane and a team of experts present a series exploring Britain's coastline. Nick meets Peter Boggis, a man trying to save his home from coastal erosion.


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Transcript


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With a house on the brink of toppling off the cliffs,

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no insurance and no local authority planning to save it,

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retired engineer Peter Boggis decided to take matters into his own hands.

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Known to the press as a self-appointed King Canute,

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he spent two years constructing his own sea defence.

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And how much has disappeared into the sea?

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Immediately opposite of here,

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180 metres have gone into the sea since the end of the war.

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-180 metres.

-Yes. It is nearly half of the land.

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And the most that I have ever seen is 22 metres of land going

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in three consecutive nights.

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So it's used as a holiday house now

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because it would be a little hairy living there during the winter.

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If we hadn't started the work, it would have gone over the edge about four years ago.

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-So this is the frontline?

-Yes.

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Are you working below here?

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Further along.

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What's going on here?

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We have a truck coming in which will turn here.

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My God!

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-What an incredible sight!

-Yes.

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-It's, um...

-I can't believe it. I thought we'd see the beach.

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This is defending Britain.

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An astonishing sight. There's trucks and mud and...

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I'm absolutely stunned by the scale of this.

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I was expecting something far, far smaller.

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Peter's defences are far more extensive than homemade sandbags.

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He's organised up to 50 trucks a day

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to dump soil and clay at the base of the cliff.

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It's a mutually beneficial alliance with local contractors that helps them get rid of their waste.

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The bank has to be constantly topped up,

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as a third of it is washed away every year.

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Now, two years on, it's 500 metres long

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and the retreat has been halted...for the time being.

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But it's not good news for everybody.

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There's some admiration

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in terms of the fact that he's taken it upon himself

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to protect his property.

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I think one of the concerns that we would have, and I'm sure a number of other local authorities,

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is if this is a precedent others might try to do the same thing.

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Southwold at the moment is suffering

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from the lowest beach levels in memory

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and that's our biggest problem with what Mr Boggis is doing.

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The cliffs that he is protecting - and it does sound callous -

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that is the source of beach replenishment material

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for the beaches to the south.

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From 1927 to 1947, the erosion rate here was almost zero.

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But as excessive sea defences were put in on adjacent areas,

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it caused a loss of the beaches

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and as beach levels progressively dropped so the rate of erosion increased.

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The council fears that Peter's earthworks prevent sand restocking the beaches.

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For Peter, the problems lie with the concrete sea walls in the town.

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But what actually happens with a concrete sea defence?

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It eats around the edges, the sea, rather than into it?

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Well, with concrete sea defences,

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very often the waves rebounds off them

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with sufficient velocity to scar the beaches away.

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Oh, I see! So you lose the sand.

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Yes, you lose the sand's protection.

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It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies.

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That dilemma echoes all down the east coast.

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Defences seem to have a knock-on effect,

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shifting the force of erosion elsewhere.

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Quite a number of people have said that I'm mad

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but I don't mind that at all.

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They'd be mad too if the sea was nibbling the bottom of the garden at the blessing of the council.

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This is our home and the homes of our neighbours.

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It is right to protect them.

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E-mail us at [email protected]

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