Government should force utility companies to pay towards coastal erosion costs, says Scarborough Council leader

Cllr Bastiman, guests and supporters at the unveiling of the Runswick Bay sea wall.
Cllr Bastiman, guests and supporters at the unveiling of the Runswick Bay sea wall.

The leader of Scarborough Council has called on the Government to make utility companies contribute money towards coastal erosion projects.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Conservative leader of the authority, Cllr Derek Bastiman, highlights the burden being placed on coastal communities.

Under current legislation, gas and electric companies do not have to contribute to the cost of coastal erosion defences despite the fact they directly benefit from the £2.28million work.

Recently in Runswick Bay, a village north of Whitby, residents raised £100,000 towards a new sea wall to protect their homes as they were counted as beneficiaries of the scheme.

Cllr Bastiman’s letter, which is co-signed by eight other coastal authority leaders, shows that hundreds of millions of pounds is spent annually by these councils, alongside the Environment Agency and the EU, on maintenance and construction schemes to safeguard communities against the impact of coastal erosion.

He writes: “Current legislation does not require utility companies to contribute to such work, although they are often direct beneficiaries with their infrastructure protected and safeguarded from the impacts of coastal erosion. A situation we believe to be inequitable.

“We would, therefore, encourage Government to incentivise utility companies to plan and invest in the resilience of their coastal infrastructure in step with local authorities and the partner agencies.

“In the first instance, we believe this could be instigated by the commissioning of a ‘National Coastal Erosion Resilience Review’ undertaken in a similar vein to the National Flood Resilience Review (in 2016) and which includes the utility companies as a major stakeholder and beneficiary.”

He adds that coastal authorities face an “ever-increasing burden” by being required to fund works that land-locked councils do not.

The eight other council leaders are: Cllr Stephen Parnaby OBE, Leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council; Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council; Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley; Cllr Sarah Bütikofer, Leader of North Norfolk District Council; Sheila Oxtoby, Chief Executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council; Cllr. Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council; Cllr Robert Waltham MBE, Leader of North Lincolnshire Council; and Cllr Sue Jeffrey, Leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council.