Is your home at risk from this powerful force?

Living on an island has its downsides - as a 70-year-old retired couple in West Sussex discovered back in 2015. They had built their own beach-front bungalow in Pagham 40-years ago, and for 30 years enjoyed the fact the beach was just at the end of the garden. Over the next decade, however, the sea eroded the garden entirely, so they are now just a few meters from the sea. An estate agent has told them that their home is now worthless.

They are part of a growing number of people whose homes are threatened by the sea.

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The government estimates that over the next 20 years, 200 homes will be made unsafe as a result of coastal erosion, and another 2,000 will be at risk. Meanwhile, according to the National Trust, over the past ten years the number of houses and shops at risk from coastal erosion and sea flooding in England has risen 10% from 117,000 to 129,000.

UK sea levels have risen 15cm since 1901 and are expected to rise another meter by the end of the century - and coastal communities are paying the price.

Is there any hope?

Where homes are at risk of dropping into the sea, those affected, and the National Trust are pushing for more government action. Understandably they differ in the kinds of approaches they want to see - with locals demanding defence at all costs and the National Trust wanting 'managed retreat', which would see homeowners moved further inland.

Where communities are threatened, the government has in the past run schemes to help. They offered to buy homes for 50% of the value they would have had if they were not threatened by the sea - plus land with planning permission on the other side of the community - away from the sea. Unfortunately it's increasingly unlikely they will run any more of these projects, as there's a risk it could be seen as compensation - which is a precedent that the government cannot afford to set.

Where threats are limited to one or two properties, homeowners can put their home up for auction before their home is taken by the sea. In some cases they can fetch tens of thousands of pounds from optimistic speculators - but some are simply impossible to sell.

In many cases, homeowners choose to hang on until the last possible second - when the authorities deem their home unsafe. After decades of living in a property they loved - looking on the sea as the biggest attraction of their home - they cannot bear to cut and run until they absolutely have to.

For those at risk of coastal flooding there is more hope. Communities and councils have established flood management plans - and co-ordinated action where there is risk from a possible storm surge.

There are also steps homeowners can take to protect their home from floods - and to ensure that if the property does flood, minimal damage is done. Insurance against this flooding is essential to cover the costs, and the government has ensured that where properties cannot be insured against coastal flooding, they will step in and guarantee cover.

But what do you think? Is it enough to put you off buying a home by the sea?

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