A study suggests that due to rising sea levels nearly 200,000 homes and businesses in England could be lost by the 2050s.

The research examines how rising sea levels caused by climate change, combined with erosion of foreshores by waves, are increasing coastal flood risk, and warns it may not be possible to protect some communities.

Experts warned there is an urgent need for a national debate about the flooding threat to coastal communities, and for long-term clarity on “transformational change” in some areas, including rolling back defences and moving properties.

The study, which is published in the journal Oceans And Coastal Management, compares the rising risk of coastal flooding with existing policies for managing the coast.

England could face around 35cm (14in) of sea level rise compared to historic levels by 2050 and is nearly certain to see close to 1m (3ft) of sea level rise by the end of the century, the study said.

Yeovil Express: Waves crashing onto the beach in Shoreham, Sussex (PA)Waves crashing onto the beach in Shoreham, Sussex (PA)

For a thousand miles of English coast (1,600-1,900km), there will be high pressure to rethink the current policy to hold the line as it may become unfeasible due to rising costs, or technically impossible, the study says.

That accounts for around 30% of the coastline where hold-the-line policies are in place, and could affect around 120,000 to 160,000 properties – excluding caravans – by the 2050s, with a proportion likely to need relocating.

The study says it is not possible to say how many of them will have to be moved, as that will be a matter for Government, policy and funding for flood defences.

The figure is on top of the 30,000 to 35,000 properties already identified in areas which have a policy to realign the coast.

Where is sea level rise likely to affect?

  • North Somerset
  • Wyre
  • Swale
  • Tendring
  • Maldon
  • Suffolk Coastal
  • North Norfolk
  • Cornwall
  • Medway
  • Sedgemoor

Lead author Paul Sayers, an engineering consultant who works with the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre and has conducted analysis for the Climate Change Committee, said: “Significant sea level rise is now inevitable.

“For many of our larger cities at the coast protection will continue to be provided but for some coastal communities this may not be possible.

“We need a serious national debate about the scale of the threat to these communities and what represents a fair and sustainable response, including how to help people to relocate.”