Experts gather in Belfast to draw up plan to protect our battered coastline
Homes, businesses and wildlife are at risk along Northern Ireland's coastline, according to some of the UK's leading environmental experts meeting in Belfast.
Local politicians and coastal experts will try to come up with a comprehensive plan for the future of our shoreline during the Shifting Shores seminar today, organised by the National Trust in Northern Ireland.
According to the trust, there is no comprehensive shoreline planning for the province, although this has been incorporated into the responsibilities of local councils in other parts of the UK.
The trust is calling for coastal planning to be adopted by the Executive and councils as a matter of priority for Northern Ireland's coastline - all 500 miles of it.
The trust has also committed to putting plans in place for the coastal areas it owns and cares for in Northern Ireland - more than 100 miles - by 2020.
Phil Davidson, wildlife and countryside adviser for the National Trust, said: "There is an immediate need for action in Northern Ireland, and with the recent reorganisation of local councils and the upcoming changes to Stormont departments, this is the perfect opportunity to begin planning for the long-term."
The trust said that this was particularly important following the severe storms that battered us in recent months.
Mr Davidson added: "In the coming years, these extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent, threatening people's homes and businesses and vital public services, as well as putting natural habitats and wildlife at risk.
"There is currently no co-ordinated approach to inform decision-making, even around crucial areas such as planning decisions, although the recent setting up of a dedicated coastal task force is a very good first step and we very much welcome it, but further action is needed, which is why the trust is calling for long-term shoreline planning by central and local government to ensure sustainable management in the future.
"That's what today's event is all about - it's about seizing this opportunity and getting the ball rolling on a better approach to coastal management, focused on adaptation."
Today's seminar is a follow-up to the National Trust UK's report Shifting Shores: Playing Our Part At The Coast, which was published last month and which warned that governments and local authorities are ignoring the accelerating threat of climate change at the expense of future generations.