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Major Environmental Threats NHPP Activity 2C1

This part of the National Heritage Protection Plan 2011-2015 dealt with the threat posed to our heritage by natural environmental events such as flooding and erosion.

Aerial photograph of an old industrial building in Yorkshire surrounded by flooding
An old industrial building surrounded by floods, Yorkshire, September 2012 © Historic England

Scope of this activity

Whilst there is continuing uncertainty about future environmental trends, the severity of some natural events may be increasing in particular areas due to changes in climate.

Examples include:

  • Increased flooding
  • Increased erosion
  • Reduced rainfall may cause a higher risk of fire in woodland or moorland areas

The work of the activity focused on understanding more about the nature of these threats and on working in partnership with others, such as Natural England, to respond to these problems.

Intended protection results

The main intended results were to:

  • Understand immediate natural and environmental threats to the historic environment
  • Identify which parts of our heritage are at greatest risk from these threats
  • In particular, assess risk of flooding and where possible reduce its effect on heritage
  • Make heritage more resilient to natural/ environmental threats.
  • Develop effective counter-disaster responses for heritage
  • Influence other third party bodies’ responses to these threats to reduce further negative impact on heritage

Photograph showing the remains of a Second World War pillbox that has fallen onto a beach due to coastal erosion.
This Second World War pillbox at Happisburgh, Norfolk has been dropped onto the beach by coastal erosion © Historic England

Projects in this activity

Assessment of natural and environmental threats

This project was a rapid general assessment of the key types of Natural and Environmental Threats that affect the Historic Environment, see the key messages of the report.

Coastal flood/erosion risk assessment pilot study

We examined how coastal change is affecting sites in the care of English Heritage. The project combined information on English Heritage's estate with Environment Agency erosion risk mapping. You can find out more about the coastal erosion risk assessment from the resulting Research Reports Series volume.

Inland flooding risk assessment pilot study

We carried out a risk assessment on the inland English Heritage estate, using a similar methodology to the coastal project: comparing data on the estate with flood risk mapping. You can see the results of the inland flooding risk assessment as a research report.

Close up of part of an aerial photograph showing a bridge destroyed by flooding
Aerial photograph showing a bridge in Cumbria destroyed by severe flooding in 2009 © Historic England, taken from image 20971_036

Research on disaster planning

Work on the development of resilience and disaster planning in partnership with the Environment Agency, Natural England and Local Authorities included the following projects:

  • A report assessing the potential impacts from climate change to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Derbyshire, to inform future management.
  • Preparing Emergency Services for disaster planning for heritage assets in Worcestershire. In particular by developing emergency plans, contingency plans and business continuity plans to help reduce, control or ease the effects of an emergency.
  • Resource identification, Risk Assessment and Contingency Planning for Essex. This is a county which faces considerable environmental risks, particularly inland flooding and coastal erosion and flooding.
  • Developing national guidance on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and the Historic Environment.
  • Disaster planning projects.

Links with other activities

We channelled the information gained from our work on this theme into our other NHPP work on:

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