Beach repairs at south Lowestoft set to go on all summer
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Major repair work on Lowestoft's award-winning south beach looks likely to continue through the peak summer season, it emerged this week.
Talks were held two months ago to discuss whether part of the town's erosion-hit beach should be closed off during the busy holiday period.
But, with the Easter weekend approaching and the tourism trade preparing for its most important time of the year, Waveney District Council has now conceded that some sections look likely to remain off-limits to the public 'for some months to come'.
Councillors will meet in a fortnight to discuss plans for extra work to repair damage to the beach and coastal defences and make long-term improvements to seafront facilities.
A report by officers confirms that part of Lowestoft South Beach remains under severe pressure from erosion and proposes 'major works to reduce the risk of damage to the promenade and to maximise public amenity value to a key tourism location'.
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The report, to be discussed by Waveney's cabinet on April 22 and the full council the following day, recommends that work must be carried out as soon as possible to avoid failure of the sea wall – and that the cost could be in the region of £1.5m.
A council spokesman said the work was vital to address a combination of coastal erosion and the aftermath of December's tidal surge which had badly damaged the beach.
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He said: 'The parts of the beach that are presently closed would not be improved by the works, and are likely to remain closed for some months to come. 'However, subject to further risk assessments and cost estimates, temporary access to the Children's Corner area of beach will be a priority for the 2014 season.'
During the proposed work, a study will be carried out to assess the viability of a longer-term scheme to provide improved seafront facilities and full access to the beach, which helps attract thousands of visitors to the town.
The report highlights certain key issues that need to be addressed – sea wall stability; beach access and amenity; replacing coping stones along the sea wall, and public access to the beach and promenade.
David Ritchie, cabinet member for planning and rural affairs, said: 'The part of Lowestoft South Beach running from the harbour south pier to Parade Road South is under high and increasing erosion pressure that requires action to reduce the risk of damage to the promenade.
'In November last year, the council commissioned an investigation which was then extended to take account of the impact of the late December 2013 tidal surge. The findings of that study have identified several possible approaches which promote immediate action, followed by ongoing management of the beach. However, all options are expensive and represent a significant new addition to the council's spending plans.
'Work to provide temporary access to Children's Corner is a priority, as is the necessary work to protect the seawall. These are first steps and appropriate short-term measures at a cost of about £1.5m. However, work to completely restore the beach and promenade to its best possible condition will cost many times more and an extensive study will establish how realistic and achievable this is.'
He added: 'We are desperate to ensure that Lowestoft recovers from the double impact of erosion and the storms and we will be entirely diligent in our approach to this. However, there is no avoiding the fact that a full programme of works will be beyond our current, available resources and we must address that sobering fact no matter what.'
If councillors approve the spending for the initial works, a public consultation will take place on the options – with comments invited on Waveney's preferred option. Feedback from this will be considered before a final scheme progresses to detailed design stage.
Construction of temporary access to Children's Corner looks set to begin as a priority for the Summer season while the restorative seawall work is currently planned for late 2014 to ensure it is carried out in time to resist winter storms. The proposed works include improvements to coping stones that are vulnerable to wave damage and the fitting of a guardrail.
Meanwhile, work will also start soon on repairing the damage caused by December's tidal surge to coping stones and the seawall.