Forward Planning to Make Coastal Risks a Thing Of The Past

A range of scientific resources and handbooks to facilitate better coastal planning will be launched at a national seminar in NUI Galway on Tuesday, 21 February. The resources are the result of a three-year, €1.9 million project, funded by the EU which has assessed the extent to which coastal risks are currently considered in development plans. It appears that across Europe’s Atlantic countries, despite guidance from policy documents at national and European level to include considerations of coastal risks, existing development plans are lacking in this area.

Atlantic Europe is made up of 33 regions stretching across a coastline of 1,550 miles, home to around 70 million inhabitants. The Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management (ANCORIM) project, led by the Aquitaine regional council in France, focused on key issues of erosion, water quality and planning. Using existing scientific knowledge and legislative instruments the ANCORIM project – a collaboration of scientists and decision-makers from Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France – has developed a set of tools to improve the current situation.

A partner in the ANCORIM project, Dr Kevin Lynch of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, explains the challenges faced by coastal communities: “Every year, in Ireland, we are reminded of the threats posed by coastal risks to our communities, their economies and our natural environment. During the winter months, this usually surfaces in stories of coastal erosion, flooding, and storm damage, while during the summer months emphasis switches to reports of poor bathing water quality or ‘red tides’.”

Examples of coastal erosion in Ireland are most pronounced in County Wexford, which has experienced coastline retreat of up to one meter a year in places. More recently, the seaside town of Strandhill in Sligo has been badly affected by erosion of its sand dunes following severe winter storms.

However, Dr Lynch points out that there are other potential hazards for coastal locations: “Examples of other risks that are not always on our radar, but could potentially have considerable socio-economic and environmental impacts, include major oil or chemical spills or ocean acidification impacts on calcifying organisms which play key roles in the oceanic food chain.”

The seminar on 21 February is aimed at all decision-makers involved in planning and managing our coast, including county planners, managers, engineers and councillors. Also invited are individuals and organisations who contribute to the decisions being made, such as county environmental or heritage officers, NGOs, local development groups, commercial enterprises and associations, as well as land and homeowners.

The resources made available by the ANCORIM project (http://ancorim.aquitaine.fr/), include a range of practical guides and tool kits. A ‘Good Practice in Planning’ handbook, for example, sets out in a step by step manner details on how coastal risks may be incorporated into new development plans.

To build greater awareness among a broader audience two educational guides have also been produced, outlining what coastal risks are and the issues associated with them for local communities.

It is hoped that a combination of greater general awareness of coastal risks in conjunction with improved forward planning will reduce the potential impacts of these risks in the future.

To register for the seminar go to the Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management National Seminar website at www.conference.ie.

CAPTION:

Beach and headland at Lecanvey, County Mayo.

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