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Calls to protect Kent's coastlines from 'wild west' climate change

Calls have been made to protect hundreds of kilometres of coastline across the county from the damaging effects of climate change.

Kent County Council (KCC) has unveiled a commitment to create nature-based solutions to environmental challenges faced in its 12 districts, such as flooding and soil erosion.

A home was eventually lost when a cliff in Sheppey collapsed last year
A home was eventually lost when a cliff in Sheppey collapsed last year

Ideas include expanding woodlands to capture and store carbon dioxide, improving soil quality and protecting coastal habitats from extreme weather.

At KCC's environment committee earlier today, Cllr Tony Hills (Con) urged the county council to investigate the impact of climate change on Kent coastlines, such as rising temperatures, heavier rainfall and higher tides causing flooding.

Cllr Hills, KCC's deputy environment cabinet member, said: "It is like the wild west out there because we do not know what is going on beneath the waves."

His comments come as County Hall seeks to find ways to extract carbon from coastal wetlands, with marine habitats playing an important natural defence mechanism against more frequent occurrences of heavy rainfall and floods.

Around 200km of coastline stretch the county, including gold sand and white cliffs, spanning from the Isle of Sheppey to Thanet, Dover and Folkestone.

White Cliffs of Dover
White Cliffs of Dover

Cllr Hills described this as a "deep resource" and wants coasts to be made greener this decade. The Romney Marsh county Cllr added that seagrass beds must be protected, which provide shelter for plant leaves and species of fish.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Milne, KCC's natural environment and coast manager, said: "Whilst the marine environment might present an opportunity, we have such limited knowledge on the type and extent of vegetation off our shores that this limits our understanding of what that potential might be."

Further investigations are expected to be carried out over the coming months as the authority also has an ambition to plant 1.5million new trees in Kent, with woodland, including broadleaved, mixed and yew, covering 11% of the county.

KCC's environment cabinet member, Cllr Susan Carey (Con), of Folkestone, revealed the importance of the world of nature beyond trees and pollinators.

She told the virtual panel of 16 councillors: "One of the interesting aspects to the environment agenda is this concept of using nature to heal nature."

In May last year a home was lost after a cliff collapse on Sheppey.

A mother-of-five revealed how her family had just seconds to escape as the cliff beneath their home suddenly collapsed.

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