Bude, we need to talk
“There is nothing permanent except change"
Ancient Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus
Change is inevitable. Only by looking back can we understand how our community has evolved. Look at the change that has already happened at Bude's beaches over the last 100 years - in the days before car parks, while the dunes were still building, and Summerleaze beach reached almost into town.
So, change is inevitable. In the future, the changing climate will significantly alter how Bude's coastline looks.
Help us work together to plan how Bude adapts.
We are not alone. Coastlines all around the world are experiencing increasing erosion and flooding due to sea level rise and other climate change factors.
In Bude, situated right beside the full force of the Atlantic, we're all too familiar with the impact of coastal storms. And as climate change makes weather patterns more extreme, we can expect an increase in the frequency, severity and damage caused by these storms. Within 50 years, the kind of storms that currently have a 1% chance of happening in any one year, could become annual events.
UK Coastal Management Policy
The Environment Agency's Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy was published in 2020. It sets the national context for all regional and local coastal management policy.
The key message from the strategy is that the climate is changing rapidly and the risk of future flooding and coastal change is significant. The guiding principle is that, as a country, we need to move away from a narrow concept of protection - essentially building walls around things we want to protect - to a broader one of resilience.
On a local level, Cornwall Council is responsible for managing our shoreline according to the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), which sets policies for managing coastal flood and erosion risks. SMPs also set guiding principles and a general 'direction of travel' with the hope of bringing about a more sustainable future for our coastlines.
SMPs also set guiding principles and a general 'direction of travel' with the hope of bringing about a more sustainable future for our coastlines. For Cornwall Council's Strategic Risk Flood Assessment portal where you can see the SMP, NCERM and Flood maps click here:
In Bude, the SMP sets a preferred policy for Crooklets and Summerleaze beaches of 'Managed Realignment' in the short and medium term. The Breakwater and Canal has a preferred policy of 'Hold the line'.
What does this mean? There are three possible preferred policy options for sections of the UK's coastline.
1. Hold the line: Maintain or improve the current standard of protection provided by the existing defence line. This policy includes situations where work is carried out in front of the existing defences, such as beach recharge, rebuilding the toe of a structure or building offshore breakwaters .
2. Managed realignment: Allow the shoreline to move backwards or forwards, with management to control or limit movement, such as reducing erosion or building new defences on the landward side of the original defences.
3. No Active Intervention: Allow nature to take its course by not investing in coastal defences or operations.
Sea Level Rise
Our changing climate, caused by greenhouse gas emission, is driving global sea level rise and coastal change at ever increasing rates. As a result the risk of coastal flood and erosion will increase substantially in Bude over the coming decades.
Several factors contribute to sea level rise, each linked to rising global temperatures. The largest factor is thermal expansion, in which seawater expands as it becomes warmer.
Importantly, there is a substantial time lag between atmospheric temperatures rising and water expanding, mainly because of the vast amounts of water in the great ocean depths. It means that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to stop today, sea levels will continue to rise for many years to come.
Scientists have calculated that the world has already emitted sufficient greenhouse gases to drive a global sea level rise of around one metre. To make matters worse, greenhouse gas emissions are still growing year-on-year and at increasingly faster rates. It's not a question of if, but rather a question of when.
In the 20th century, the global average sea level rose at a rate of around 1.7mm per year. This rate of increase is now accelerating. Newlyn in Cornwall provides the UK's longest ongoing sea-level time series. Analysis of Newlyn's tidal gauge records from 1981-2016 shows the sea level rising by an average of 2.3mm per year, resulting in an overall local sea-level rise of approximately 7cm (nearly three inches) over 35 years.
Why is Bude so vulnerable?
The shoreline at Bude is very sensitive to future climate change because here a lower level of sea level rise is required for extreme high-water events, which cause flooding and increase erosion, to become much more frequent.
The far north Cornish coast is unique in that it takes only 0.5m of sea level rise for currently very rare extreme high-water events to become a regular occurrence. Current sea-level rise predictions mean extreme high-water events that now occur once every 100 years will happen at least once a year in Bude by 2070.
Environment Agency Visualisations
The Environment Agency has developed a set of photo-realistic visualisations illustrating how our shoreline could change in Bude as a result of sea level rise - if we don't act and just allow nature to take its course. But no one is suggesting we shouldn't or can't take action.
These visualisations were modelled using the most up-to-date and robust datasets available, including data collected from the South West Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme and climate data from the UK Climate Projections Project.
It mirrors data already available on Cornwall Council's Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) interactive mapping website.
It's important to remember that these future coastal visualisations are an indication and are based on a 'No Active Intervention' management approach - in other words: it's what will happen if we let nature takes its course and we do nothing. But the current management approach for Summerleaze and Crooklets is 'Managed Realignment'. So, this means the plan at the moment is to mitigate the effects of sea level rise by adaptation measures.
Some uncertainty in future timing and magnitude of climate change means the actual coastal change experienced could be less - or greater - than shown. Spring mean high tide events will occur with regularity.
What can we do?
If Bude wants a sustainable coastal frontage that is resilient to climate change, we need to adapt - and we'd love everyone to get involved in deciding together how we do this, and how we mitigate the impacts of a changing climate across our beautiful corner of north Cornwall.
What do we want for our shoreline? Where do our priorities lie? Should we maintain a sandy beach? Sustain our tourism infrastructure? Explore opportunities for softer landscaping and rewilding, for example? What can we do to protect our community's economy, infrastructure, way of life?
And, this is where Bude has a unique opportunity to have these very conversations because as part of one of our key projects, the Shoreline Engagement Project, we are holding a Community Jury for the whole wider Bude area. It is very rare for a small community such as ours to hold a Community Jury, so we urge you to sign up, get involved and be part of the face of change.
If you'd like to find out more about what a Community Jury can look like, why not watch The People vs Climate? In this "surprising and funny documentary, 108 ordinary Brits are tasked with deciding what we should do to meet our climate change goals in the UK’s first ever Citizen's Assembly on Climate Change". You can watch it here:
For further information on the Bude Area Community Jury on Climate Change, head on over to our dedicated Jury pages and follow our news here: