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Sub-regional impacts on coastal erosion

Regional | Sub-regional | Local detail

 

Here are the sub-regional level impacts expected from climate change by the 2050s on coastal erosion.

Northumberland
Tyne & Wear
County Durham
Tees Valley

 

Northumberland

Description
Northumberland has the largest length of coastline in the region at 131km. 

It extends from Lamberton to Seaton Sluice and largely is composed of sandy beaches and sand dunes interspersed between areas of harder rock cliffs and shore platforms. 

The coastline is intersected by the estuaries of the Tweed, Aln, Coquet, Wansbeck and Blyth and by coastal streams such as South Low and Seaton Sluice.

Bamburgh

 

The Northumberland coast has a high intrinsic tourism and nature conservation value due to its largely undeveloped and rural nature. Due to this, much of the coastline is undefended, although local management activities and larger capital schemes are in place where key assets are threatened by erosion. 

This includes recent coastal defence schemes at Lynemouth and Newbiggin Bay to protect the Alcan Power Station and coastal town of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea respectively against marine erosion. 

 

Vulnerability
The Northumberland coast is particularly vulnerable to:

  • Landward migration of beach and dune systems due to rising sea levels
  • Dynamic changes in the alignment of river channel outfalls due to increased winter river flows
  • Cliff recession and beach lowering due to wave energy at the cliff toe
  • Development pressures at the coastal margin
  • Increased pressure for tourism and amenity use due to rising temperatures

 

Impact
Sea level rise will lead to accelerated erosion of the coastline, caused by landward migration of the beaches and dunes, and recession of the sea cliffs. 

The time-window of opportunity for crossing the causeway to Holy Island will be reduced compared to the present day.

Particularly affected by erosion will be a short section of the East Coast Main Line and a number of coastal car parks, golf courses and caravan parks, as well as a small number of properties at locations such as Boulmer and Low Hauxley.

Where defence structures are in place, sea level rise will lead to increased frequency of overtopping, causing localised sea flooding, as well as increased mobility of beach sediments, leading in places to beach lowering and ultimately undermining of defences.

Rising temperatures will result in increased tourism and amenity usage of the beaches, itself leading to potential for increased damage to fragile dune systems.
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Tyne & Wear

Description
Tyne & Wear has a coastline length of 30km, most of which is defended. 

It extends from St Mary's Lighthouse to Ryhope. 

The coastline is intersected by the estuaries of the River Tyne and the River Wear. 

The frontages are backed by extensive urban areas, including Whitley Bay, Tynemouth, South Shields and Sunderland.

 

Vulnerability
This coastline is particularly susceptible to:

  • Increased wave overtopping and toe undermining of structures associated with rising sea levels
  • Landward migration of beach and dune systems due to rising sea levels
  • Development pressures at the coastal margin
  • Increased pressure for tourism and amenity use due to rising temperatures

 

Impact
Areas of undefended sea cliff will continue to erode, but at accelerated rates under a rising sea level.  Similarly beach and dune systems will migrate landwards unless they are constrained by coastal defences, promenades or other structures, such as housing developments or roads at the back of the dunes, in which case they will start to lose sediment volume.

In defended areas, which constitute a large proportion of the Tyne & Wear frontage, increased sea levels will cause greater energy to be expended on the coast, leading to increased wave overtopping of seawalls and promenades and also to more mobilisation of beach sediments, causing beach lowering at the toe of structures.  This will be of particular concern in areas of high residential development or where the sub-region's key economic assets are based, such as at the seafront amenity assets of North and South Tyneside and Sunderland, the Port of Sunderland, and the treatment works at Hendon.

In places erosion will lead to the release of pollutants from former waste sites into the coastal system, presenting public health and safety and environmental issues.

Rising temperatures will result in increased tourism and amenity usage of the beaches.
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County Durham

Description
County Durham has the shortest coastline of the four sub-regions at only 18km, most of which is undefended cliff intersected by a large number of coastal streams. It extends from Ryhope Dene to Crimdon. 

The coastline has historically been much affected by tipping of colliery spoil.

 

Vulnerability
The coastline is vulnerable to:

  • Marine erosion removing beach sediments (spoil from former collieries) due to waves and tides and subsequent re-activation of recession processes on the sea cliffs
  • Increased flows through the small watercourses that discharge to sea at particularly wet times of the year (e.g. in winter or during intense rainfall events)
  • Increased tourism and amenity use

 

Impact
Beaches fronting existing structures will be impacted over the longer-term, giving rise to increased pressure on the structures.  This will be combined with increased loading on the structures due to sea level rise and wave activity.

The remaining colliery waste will progressively be transported from the foreshore, reducing the degree of protection provided to the backing sea cliffs (or further south the dunes) which, when combined with sea level rise, will lead to increased recession rates of the coastline by the 2050s. 

At Noses Point this will cause public health and safety and environmental issues due to erosion of hazardous waste from the coastal margin at this area of former landfill. Pressure will also be applied on the existing railway line, which comes close to the cliff edge in places.

The recession will, however, remain relatively slow-rate since the coastline is largely composed of relatively erosion-resistant Magnesian Limestone.  

Also, the erosion will not prove too problematic in this section as there are presently few assets at risk due to the largely natural (or semi-natural) character of the coastline. 

Further south, however, there will be continued land loss to the Crimdon Caravan Park and by the 2050s the coastal Car Park will be threatened.

Increased winter rainfall will increase the volatility in position of the outfall channel of Crimdon Beck. 
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Tees Valley

Description
Tees Valley has a coastline length of 45km, extending from Crimdon to Staithes and incorporating the major sediment sink of Tees Bay. 

There is a range of industrial, residential and harbour infrastructure adjacent to much of the coastline in the west of the sub-region, resulting in the presence of a heavily defended frontage. 

Moving further east, more rural areas are situated between the seaside towns.

 

Vulnerability
The coastline is vulnerable to:

  • erosion by waves and tides, including the effects of sea level rise
    flooding due to wave overtopping
  • landward migration of beach and dune systems in response to sea level rise
  • sea cliff recession due to toe erosion by marine processes and landslips due to marine process and groundwater conditions (depending on cliff geology)
  • increased tourism and amenity use due to rising temperatures

 

Impact
In Tees Valley, there will be some loss of land, housing and rail and road links due to coastal erosion by the 2050s. These areas are already largely known to be problematic.

In addition, where existing defences are present, they will come under increasing pressure due to rising sea levels and will be subject to more frequent overtopping, leading to localised flooding, and lowering of beach levels fronting these structures.

The effectiveness of natural rock foreshore features in attenuating some of the incoming wave energy will diminish with rising sea levels, leading to yet greater energy at the coast.

In other places, there is sufficient width of beach and dune to provide a good level of natural protection against sea flooding caused by breaching through dunes, even with the projected sea level rises for the 2050s.

 

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