Managing and accepting coastal changes on farmland

Hill House Farm

June 2010

  • UK
  • Agriculture
  • Business
  • Coastal impacts

A family farm and B&B business in a low lying coastal area is investigating breaching a sea wall to create new habitats and landscape, and enhancing the existing tourist business.

Main message

Recognising that change has happened in the past and will accelerate under climate change provides the context for new opportunities and managing your response.

In detail

About the organisation

Hill House Farm is a family farm on the Suffolk coast, with 520 acres of arable crops, 100 acres of SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) marshland grazing, some woodland and a B&B business.

Motivation

The land has historically been subject to coastal change, including the great flood of 1953 and a previous inundation in 1874. Agricultural land is less likely to receive government-backed protection than settlements. At the same time, officially protected habitats such as the intertidal zone are also under threat from coastal change.

Main players & partners

  • Hill House Farm
  • Environment Agency
  • Natural England
  • NFU and CLA within the Managing Coastal Change project

Process

The farm owners have investigated the potential changes and the opportunities for managed realignment, and held initial discussions with the Environment Agency and Natural England. They recognise the planning issues and timescales involved and anticipate this as a programme of work over the next 3–5 years.

The Environment Agency are being very pro-active and have been supporting the business in terms of planning for the breaching of the sea wall and the consequent necessary footpath realignment and application to change the HLS.

Through the farmer’s involvement in the Essex & South Suffolk Shoreline Management plan, he has been aware of the likely choice of the sea wall for managed realignment in the first 25 years and has been receptive of their proposals for this site.

Outcomes

As yet, no specific changes in management practice have arisen from the proposed project. The majority of the area is in HLS as wet grassland.

However, the owners are redeveloping additional barns as tourist accommodation, with opportunities to benefit from existing birdwatching and walks in the area, as well as from new landscape and habitat features resulting from any planned coastal realignment and possible new developments, such as moorings.

Analysis

Enablers

  • The farm and tourism enterprise is a family-run business, with a strong commitment to its long term sustainability and a recognition that change is a fact of life in this coastal area.
  • The Parish Council and local district councillors were fully supportive of the barn development.
  • Natural England and the Managing Coastal Change Project have also been very helpful.

Constraints

Negotiating the planning system will involve considerable work, especially the complexities of diverting the current footpath along the sea wall to a route to be agreed by all parties. The business found the planning authorities less than helpful with the development of their barns.

Lessons learned

Full consultation with all statutory bodies is essential at an early stage.

This case study combines information obtained from the company by UKCIP with information originally provided for a Climate East project in 2010.