Coastal erosion is an issue for the whole Northern Ireland coastline and it is important that communities and agencies work together to help manage it.
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen set out the position as she addressed a meeting of the Ards Peninsula Coastal Erosion Group in Bangor.
Speaking after the event, the Minister said: “Coastal erosion is a major issue not only for the Ards Peninsula, but also for the whole Northern Ireland coastline. I understand entirely the difficulties and frustrations faced by people when it comes to dealing with the consequences of coastal erosion.
“Coastal change cannot be stopped, nor would we want it to be, as this is how our beaches are replenished. Beaches themselves act as a natural defence. So this isn’t a question of beating coastal erosion – that’s simply not possible – nor would it be desirable around many parts of our coast.
“Instead, the challenge is to find the best way of managing coastal change, both erosion and flooding. It’s about understanding how we want the Northern Ireland coastline to be shaped both now and in the future.
“I am therefore committed to doing whatever I can as Minister to ensure that the Executive deals with this issue more strategically in future.
“This is no simple task and requires input and co-operation across a range of statutory agencies, as well as from local communities. This is why when I was Minister in the former Department for Regional Development, I established a dedicated Coastal Forum to bring together the relevant bodies and take a more strategic approach to coastal management.
“I will be engaging with my Executive colleague, the Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard, to discuss how we best take this issue forward.
“I thank everyone from all of the agencies who took part today: Transport NI; Ards and North Down Borough Council; Newry Mourne and Down District Council; the National Trust; and the Ards Peninsula Coastal Erosion Group.
‘I am heartened by the spirit of co-operation and collaboration which will provide a good platform on which to improve how we manage coastal change in the future.”
Shannon Backs McIlveen Over Coastal Erosion Issues
Jim Shannon MP Strangford has called for a government minister to step in and take the lead on coastal erosion.
He said: “It is time that the Ministers responsible, which I understand have an overlapping remit on this subject, step in and take control of the issue of coastal erosion.
“It would seem that the majority of responsibility for the matter lies with DAERA Minister, Michelle McIlveen MLA, as she has been inundated with correspondence regarding the issue since her previous role within the DARD.
“I would encourage the Northern Ireland Assembly and local councils to take on the issue directly and liaise with Westminster and other devolved regions to develop best practice on the issue of coastal erosion.
“I sit on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coastal Erosion at Westminster and it has representation from all corners of the UK. It is a devolved matter but there is a need for co-ordinated strategies and progress on coastal erosion issues which do not end where another authority takes responsibility.
“While I welcome the commitment to the improvements at Swan Lake, Greyabbey, I am yet to see commitments to other areas that desperately need it such as areas on the Shore Road at Kircubbin and another 91 locations that have been identified, 19 of which are category 4 – the highest priority.
“It is obvious that additional funding would need to be set aside to assist the local manager to do this work and make the roads safe and moreover that the strategy can be proactive and not reactive in the future.”