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Wednesday, August 5, 1998 Published at 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK

UK Politics

Abandon low-lying land to sea, say MPs

No one is sure how much land may be left to the sea

Many areas of low-lying farmland in East Anglia and southern England should be abandoned to the sea as flood defences are a waste of money say MPs.

The Agriculture Select Committee is calling for "an end to the centuries-old war with the sea... and a peaceful accommodation with our former enemy".

But the committee's report, which has been welcomed by Wildlife Trusts and the World Wide Fund for Nature also recommends "suitable compensation arrangements" for farmers.

The committee says a "managed realignment" of the coastline is preferable to suffering "the consequences of a deluded belief that we can maintain indefinitely an unbreachable Maginot Line of towering sea walls and flood defences".

[ image: Luff: time to
Luff: time to "work with nature"
Committee chairman, the Tory MP Peter Luff, said: "We must work with nature and not against it - we must be a little more humble about our relationship with it."

The MPs argue that current coastal defence policy "cannot be sustained in the long term if it continues to be founded on the practice of substantial human intervention in the natural processes of flooding and erosion".

Instead they said planners should be "making room for the sea at the coast and for rivers in flood plains".

Global warming may see sea levels rise and with it increaed flooding. In 200 or 300 years, much of London and other major cities could be under water, the MPs said.

The report also calls for major administrative changes at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to reflect the new attitude and improve planning processes.

Mr Luff said "for centuries they [farmers] have been adding land from the sea".

"They have go to accept that's no longer possible. They are going to have to see things going the other way."

There is no estimate for how much land may be abandoned to the sea, but he said it "did not amount to thousands of hectares".

The Wildlife Trusts and the UK branch of the Worldwide Fund for Nature welcomed the report.

Dr Sian Pullen of the WWF said: "We welcome the recognition that managed realignment is an effective solution to eroding coastlines in many places given the reality of sea level rise in response to climatic changes.

"We must allow space for the restoration of nature's natural defences."

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