How will these resources help you?

Homes are being threatened by coastal erosion and flooding around England, especially on the south and east coastlines. These resources explore the coastal processes involved and ways of protecting homes and other buildings. An introduction to the physical geography of the issue is followed by examples of homes at risk. The difficult choices facing coastal dwellers and government organisations are introduced: Can we afford to defend all the homes under threat? Why is housing developed in low-lying coastal areas? How can communities defend their homes while preserving the natural shoreline as far as possible? With so many people in coastal areas across the world facing increasing risk, we can’t keep ignoring this problem. Students will benefit from understanding the complexities of the issue and the difficult choices that arise.

Why are coastal erosion and flooding such threats to homes in England?

Top Spec Geography: Coasts

by Debbie Milton and Gerd Masselink, published by the Geographical Association, (2018), 9781843774129

While written for A-level Geography students, this book is also a very useful read for teachers who want to update their understanding of coastal processes and management. A systems approach is used to explore how different aspects of coasts are interrelated, including coastal erosion and flooding. Coastal change is considered in the short and long term, including the challenge of rising sea levels. Clear explanations and diagrams answer the question of why some homes are falling into the sea and what can be done about it. 

What is it like to face the threat of losing your home to the sea?

Panorama - Coastal erosion

published by BBC, (2020)

This short clip complements the explanations of coastal processes in relation to flooding and erosion in the Top Spec book, showing examples of homes which have fallen into the sea and including interviews with people whose homes are now threatened. The clip ends with photographs showing coastlines where homes are dangerously close to the cliff edge and the idea that the number of people affected depends on whether proposed coastal defence schemes are funded. A useful resource to show students the impact of coastal erosion at a local scale and the personal stories of people affected.

Can we stop homes from falling into the sea?

Rising sea levels will claim homes around English coast, report warns

by Damian Carrington, published by The Guardian, (2018)

The funding of coastal defence schemes is at the heart of this article, which states that a third of the English coastline can’t be affordably protected. It discusses a report by the Committee on Climate Change, which concludes that ‘hard choices’ will need to be made about which homes can be defended from the sea in the future. Cost-benefit ratios and the issue of protecting key infrastructure are discussed. The lack of information for home buyers in threatened locations is criticised. Using this article with students will allow them to see the issues around coastal erosion and flooding and in protecting homes, and would be ideal as part of a decision-making exercise. It may also spark interest in careers in this area.

How is coastal flood risk affecting homes in Florida?

Coastal home buyers are ignoring rising flood risks, despite clear warnings and rising insurance premiums

by Risa Palm and Toby W. Bolsen, published by The Conversation, (2022)

Homes aren’t only falling into the sea in England; this article explores the same issue in Florida in the USA. Detailed flood maps are available in the USA, but the urban geography professors who wrote this article found that home buyers are not considering flood risks when looking for new homes.This is despite research showing that some counties in Florida are likely to see a 70 per cent increase in annual flood damage by 2050 because of climate change. Many homes will need to be adapted or face damage before their owners have paid off their 30-year mortgages and will become more difficult to sell as sea levels rise. Students may like to explore the similarities and differences between the situation in England and in the Florida, considering the physical and political factors at play. 

Further materials

Why housing is built in flood-prone coastal areas by Yatang Lin, Thomas McDermott and Guy Michaels, published by VoxEU, (2021) Read this article
Somerset pub at risk of falling into the sea set to reopen after emergency work to cliffs by Ben McGrail, published by ITV News, (2021) Watch this clip
Coastal Flooding: How coastal communities are being impacted by sea level rise and the data that can help by NOAA/NOS, Old Dominion University and ESRI, (2022) Access this resource
A Beach Town’s Dilemma: Protect Homes or Save the Shore? by Annie C. Mulkern, ClimateWire, published by Scientific American, (2022) Read this article
Catherine Owen is Head of Geography at The King Alfred School an Academy, a CGeog and a Geographical Association Consultant. She writes and presents for OUP, Hodder Geography, Tutor2U and more.

Text © Catherine Owen, 2022-2023