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Report's claim on coastal erosion is misleading

Published 13/07/2015

In response to the report released by Ulster University on coastal erosion (News, July 9), the Institution of Civil Engineers Northern Ireland (ICE NI) is addressing several points made by Professor of Coastal Studies Andrew Cooper.

ICE NI agrees with the report's statement that one of coastal erosion's main issues is the lack of oversight and legislation. The currently-utilised Bateman Formula is unclear in designating responsibility for coastal building and erosion, and ICE NI echoes the report's call for specific policy and a strategic vision.

However, the report's declaration that a lack of planning will result in Northern Ireland being "rimmed in concrete" is misleading.

Currently, no one is proposing, or building, new infrastructure on Northern Ireland's coasts. Rather, defences are being put in place in order to shore up already existing, necessary infrastructure, such as roads and rail lines.

Take the A2 coast road as a primary example. Along with many other pieces of infrastructure, the A2 coast road was originally built to address societal needs, allow greater access and enable the transport of goods. The decision to put the A2 on the coast was purposeful, as alternative routes became impassable during winter.

With any successful building project, there needs to be a healthy tension between sustainability, society, the economy and the environment.

If civil engineers built a route like the A2 today, mitigation of and adaptability to coastal erosion would certainly factor into planning and delivery.

However, for our existing network of roads and rails, there is no choice, but defence. It is crucial to maintain these assets - their destruction would be catastrophic.

ICE NI recognises the merits of the report's findings, but dismisses the myth that infrastructure will destroy the country's coasts. There are no new projects threatening to overtake the coasts, there is only the defence of current roads and railways.

Ridding ourselves of these structures would be a mistake. Protection of the environment is at the heart of civil engineering, but it must always remain in balance with the needs of society.

LILLY MCKIBBIN

Institution of Civil Engineers

Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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