Coastal landfill time bomb needs urgent action

Hundreds of historic coastal landfill sites across the country are at risk of polluting Britain’s beaches and waterways, a new survey reveals.

Wide shot of a coastal town on a sunny day

Hundreds of historic coastal landfill sites across the country are at risk of polluting Britain’s beaches and waterways, a new survey reveals.

The survey from the Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group (LGA Coastal SIG), in collaboration with Coastal Group Network, shows that 26 coastal councils have sites already spilling large amounts of waste onto cliffs and beaches.

Coastal landfill sites, inherited by councils are a large-scale problem on Britain’s coastlines, are often on low lying coastal and estuary sites that have historically been an easy target for the disposal of toxic rubbish.

Many of these sites are more than 100 years old which means significant gaps in understanding of what waste and risks are present.

Councils want to work with the Government to find a long-term solution to this historic problem, which will be further explored at an LGA webinar today (12 January).

This will include urgent funding to allow councils to embark on immediate remedial works to be carried out to stop the leaching of pollution from these sites that are already eroding or being flooded, as well as develop an understanding of what these sites contain.

Cllr David Renard, LGA environment spokesperson, said:

“Our coastlines need urgent support. This problem will not go away, and funding is needed to prevent hundreds of disasters on our shores.

“Councils want to protect their local environments but need urgent support from the Government to save our coastlines from this ticking time bomb.”

Mark Stratton, Officer Lead for Coastal Landfill at the LGA Coastal SIG said:

“There are hundreds of coastal landfill sites at risk of tidal flooding and erosion.

“During visits to sites, I have been overwhelmed by the scale of the problem especially the threat of waste eroding or leaching out onto the often-designated natural coastal environment. “

Notes to editors

  1. The full survey is available here.
  2. The LGA Coastal SIG champions the collective interests of coastal communities by increasing awareness and debate on environmental, economic and social issues at all levels in relation to the coast. The Lead Authority for the LGA Coastal SIG is South Tyneside Council, who has held this position since September 2019 and the group is formed of 57 member councils, covering 60 per cent of the English coastline and representing 16 million people.
  3. The Coastal Group Network brings together the Coastal Groups which technical groups principally comprising coastal managers from Maritime District, County and Unitary Councils, Port and Harbour Authorities and the Environment Agency (EA). Other interested bodies and organisations, such as Natural England, English Heritage, ministry of Defence and Marine Management Organisation amongst others also participate and are members of the groups. There are seven regional coastal groups in England, as prescribed by Strategic Overview in March 2008, each of them formed with regard to local coastal processes (sediment cells) to advise and influence the EA, Government and the Regional Flood and Coastal Committees on risk, delivery and coastal management issues.