£1.7m battle to save Lowestoft seafront

SHRINKING SANDS: This aerial picture by Mike Page shows how a section of Lowestoft beach has been affected by erosion.

picture: MIKE PAGE SHRINKING SANDS: This aerial picture by Mike Page shows how a section of Lowestoft beach has been affected by erosion. picture: MIKE PAGE

Friday, August 22, 2014
9:30 AM

Tonnes of rocks will be unloaded onto Lowestoft’s south beach next month as the first phase of a £1.7m scheme to defend the town’s storm-battered seafront gets under way.

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The emergency repairs – costing £800,000 – are due to start in two weeks’ time and will see the boulders delivered by barge to provide a protective barrier for the badly-damaged seawall.

The work is due to finish by the end of October, with a second £900,000 phase due to start next spring to repair the promenade, stabilise the beach and combat the effects of erosion.

The defence scheme “should provide protection from the waves for 30 years,” according to Waveney District Council, which this week warned local businesses and people living near the seafront that the work could at times continue into the night and lead to “unavoidable disruption”.

The council says the repairs will start on Monday, September 8 – having been planned to avoid the peak summer season and to ensure that work can be completed before any possible arrival of winter storms which may cause further damage to the unprotected and vulnerable seawall.

Because of the nature of the work, an additional section of the beach – between the Neptune statue and Claremont Pier – will be temporarily closed from next month.

There will also be some disruption to traffic as heavy machinery is brought to and from the site, and while the works are carried out at low tide there is likely to be noise and vibration.

Stressing the work was “an absolute priority”, Waveney leader Colin Law said: “This work is a vital investment in the future of our seafront and it is urgently needed as we cannot risk failure of the seawall. Once repaired, the seawall will be protected from future winter storms and we can then move ahead with the next phase of the beach repairs.

“This will ultimately return our seafront to a welcoming and attractive place to visit, which will enhance the already thriving tourism industry within the town and provide long-term benefit to the local economy.

“We understand that the seawall repair work may cause unavoidable disruption to nearby businesses and residents, especially as it will be necessary to work through the night.

“Therefore we would ask people for their patience and co-operation at this time so that the necessary repairs can be completed by the end of October.”

As previously reported, the beach, seawall and parts of the promenade – particularly the stretch between the Children’s Corner area at South Pier to Parade Road South – were badly affected by the St Jude’s Storm last October and the largest North Sea tidal surge in 60 years last December.

As a result, some sections of the beach and promenade were closed on safety grounds.

Further investigations by experts, who assessed the condition of the flint seawall, found that “there is a high risk of seawall failure,” which is likely to increase further with winter storms.

This led to the council drawing up plans for the repairs, which will see up to six tonnes of rocks delivered to the port, then transferred onto a barge before being unloaded onto the beach.

A council spokesman said: “The site will be active for periods of four to six hours during low tide, dependent on weather. As work can only be carried out during these short tidal windows, it will be necessary for the repairs to continue throughout the night and at weekends.

“Night time operations may result in possible noise and vibration outside of normal working hours and this could unfortunately cause some inconvenience to local businesses and residents.”

Although the council has vowed to complete the work as quickly as possible, concerns have been voiced that the closure of the beach over the summer has already badly affected the town’s tourist trade.

Sonia Barker, the leader of Waveney’s Labour Group, said: “Since we were told about the beach works I’ve been trying to get signs installed all along the seafront.

“Concerns have been raised to me that we have been losing tourists as people come to the north end of the beach and go no further as they see it is closed and aren’t aware of what is available on the other side of Claremont Pier.

“Having asked the question at full council about when these new signs would be going up, it now looks like they’re going to be provided shortly – which to me is far too late as we are now at the end of the summer.”

■Waveney’s coastal management team will be holding a drop-in session at the Kirkley Centre in London Road South from 2pm to 8pm on Wednesday for anyone who has concerns or questions about the work.

Information boards explaining the work will also be on display at the lifeguard station and seafront car park by the Claremont Pier.

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