Waves, tides and storms regularly batter the wild coastline of Lancashire. It is nothing new for the landowners who see their land lost inch by inch every year.
But now this destructive climate cycle has left the shores crumbling and communities fearing they could be lost under water forever.
After years of protecting the shoreline, local authorities could wave the white flag at mother nature as they consider leaving the future of the Lancashire coastline in the hands of the gods.
Lancaster City Council is working with the North West England and North Wales Coastal Group, the Environment Agency and other organisations to draw up a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), to establish the best way to manage the changing coast, now and for future generations.
Plans are to either to maintain the current coastal defences or allow the defences to weaken and let swathes of agricultural land turn to marshland.
Up to 10 farms and 17 properties could be destroyed and four large caravan parks in the Cockerham and Thurnham areas are at risk as environment bosses review the sea defences along the shoreline of Morecambe Bay.
The SMP options include maintaining current defences, realigning the coastline in a managed way or no active intervention.
The plan suggests studies into realignment in the Thurnham, Overton and Lune Estuary areas, which would lead to a new waterline being created inland.
In the Knott End Golf Course and Sunderland Village areas the plan suggests a ‘no active intervention’ policy, leaving nature to take its course.
Brenda Lawson, who lives at Bank End Farm, Cockerham, is one of the residents who would be affected by the plans. She is so concerned she has started a campaign group to put forward alternatives to the Environment Agency.
She says: “We farm 230 acres and have done since the 1930s. All our farm would go into the sea. It would be a considerable loss of livelihood.
“The top and bottom of it is money. They are saying it would cost £12m to maintain this stretch of coastline for 100 years, but they are maintaining they could build a new defence further back for £6m.
“But that is just the cost of building it. There is no compensation for the people who own the land they are going to build on.”
Up to 1035 acres of farmland could revert to marsh land, including the Cockerham Sands Country Park.
Director Kate Bateson says: “It is a concern of ours but it is very early days. It would affect the local economy. If they decided there would be no action taken like they have at Sunderland Point, we would be cut off.”
A decision not to fight the ebbing tide at the windswept peninsula could mean Sunderland Point could be lost to the sea.
The historic village was used as a port for slave ships and cotton ships but its importance declined as other ports such as Lancaster developed.
During high tides the village is already cut off from neighbouring Overton when the single track road that links the two becomes flooded. But if the defences are not maintained it could be lost forever, as the waters encroach on the land.
Coun Jon Barry, cabinet member with responsibility for the environment at Lancaster City Council, said: “We are not able to protect all coastal homes, businesses, land and wildlife habitats from coastal erosion and flooding.
“But with (the community’s] help, we will know where these risks are greatest and set out effective ways to manage these in a sustainable way.”
Pete Fox, the flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency North West, added: “It’s really important that local communities work with the Environment Agency, Local Authorities and others to produce the shoreline management plans and coastal erosion risk maps.
“This will ensure we all get the best possible outcomes for people and the environment in the area and beyond.”
Graham Lymbery, chairman of the North West England and North Wales Coastal Group, says: “Climate change and sea level rise will mean that protecting our coast from flooding and erosion will become harder in the future. This means making tough decisions.”
Story in the Lancashire Evening Post