Village in Wales to be abandoned due to climate change

Fairbourne Beach in Gwynedd Wales, England.
Fairbourne Beach in Gwynedd Wales, England. Photo credit: Getty

At an unknown time in the future, residents living in a small coastal village in Wales will be asked to leave their homes due to climate change.

While COVID-19 lockdowns have led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels continue to rise, impacting communities such as Fairbourne, a village barely above sea level.

The village is protected by a sea wall, earth banks and a network of drainage channels, but the defences are only set to last so long.

No money will be spent on defending the Fairbourne community - consisting of around 400 homes and 850 people - after 2054. 

By 2054, Gwynedd Council says the "risk to residents will significantly increase" due to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns, WalesOnline reported.

Gwynedd Council has confirmed that relocating Fairbourne residents is a certainty. 

"Climate change is happening, and it is unfortunately only a matter of time before it has a very real human impact on coastal communities like Fairbourne," councillor Wager told WalesOnline.

In 2013, the Gwynedd council - the local governing body of Fairbourne - decided it could not afford to defend Fairbourne from the long-term effects of climate change.

Long-time resident Stuart Eves says the local banks are refusing to hand out money, meaning residents can't get mortgages or buy houses. As a result, the local housing market has collapsed.

"It's destroyed the livelihood of the village," Stuart told WalesOnline. "We know there's going to be a problem, but what we don't know is when."

In the past four years, Gwynedd Council and Natural Resources Wales have spent more than NZ$11.7 million on a flood risk management scheme in the area.

There are currently no schemes in place to allow homeowners to receive compensation when they relocate, angering Fairbourne residents.

While Gwynedd Council says it has not decided to decommission Fairbourne, it admitted to WalesOnline that the idea would "need to be considered".

While there is currently no national funding stream for 'decommissioning' an entire community, the council are seeking assurances from the Welsh government to address issues as soon as possible.

Alan Wilde, a Fairbourne resident of 35 years, told WalesOnline he felt the council had abandoned the community.

Wilde says the council closed public toilets, removed the only safe access route to the beach, and took away the community notice boards. 

"They're killing tourism and we feel abandoned. We're totally in the dark," Wilde told WalesOnline.

Gwynedd Council says discussions are ongoing into determining the best and safest way to relocate residents by 2054.

A "multi-agency project" is currently being devised to address the issues that will face Fairbourne in the future.