£800,000 bid to protect Lowestoft seafront
- Credit: Archant
An £800,000 scheme will get under way later this summer to protect Lowestoft's seafront from erosion.
Work to repair the south beach promenade and defend the storm-battered sea wall from further damage is due to begin in early September to avoid disruption over the peak holiday season.
But hopes that the town's award-winning south beach might be restored to its former glory have been dashed by a lack of government funding after a winter of severe flooding and extreme weather.
Details of the seafront defence scheme were announced this week by Waveney District Council. The first phase of the work will see rocks placed on the beach to prevent the potential collapse of the sea wall, and it is hoped that a second phase – costing an extra £900,000 – will get under way in spring next year.
As previously reported in The Journal, the beach, sea walls and access points in south Lowestoft – running from the South Pier to Parade Road South – were badly affected last winter by storms and increased erosion, which led to some sections of the beach and promenade edge being closed on safety grounds.
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Detailed assessments were carried out to assess the damage and these found the southern section of flint sea wall was at an increased risk of collapse, particularly if more beach erosion or storm damage occurred.
The council said this meant protecting this part of the seafront was an 'absolute priority'.
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A Waveney spokesman said: 'As well as the specific issues of vulnerability, a number of other factors have contributed to the decisions taken. The Environment Agency has offered a conditional grant for the initial protection work. However, this will only be payable once the work has been completed.'
Once this grant has been paid, the council can then commit resources to the phase two repair work on the promenade, and further protection of the northern flint sea wall at the popular Children's' Corner area of beach, which is likely to take the total cost of the project to about £1.7m.
Waveney's leader Colin Law said: 'With such a scarcity of available funding we have to carefully manage the work that needs to be done and the absolute number one priority is to protect the seafront from further damage. The impact of another winter storm and the possible collapse of the sea wall would be unimaginable.
'However, with the advice of our coastal management team and engineers, we believe that this approach will best safeguard the future of the south beach seafront.'
The council has met and been in consultation with local businesses about the effect of the beach and promenade closures currently in place and the repairs required, and it was agreed that the initial protection work should be delayed until the end of the summer season to avoid disruption over the peak holiday season.
The work requires a Marine Licence and planning consent, which both require public consultation periods, and this means that work could only get begin in mid-August at the very earliest.
However, the council has opted for a further two-week delay to ensure that the Royal Plain area is not affected by heavy machinery and disruption at its busiest time of year.
The scheme will take around 10 weeks and should be finished by early November.
Bruce Provan, Waveney's cabinet member for tourism and economic development, said: 'We have held meetings with local businesses and it is clear that avoiding disruption in peak times is a priority. By getting under way in September we will reduce the impact of the works while still ensuring that it is completed ahead of the winter.'
Mr Provan said expert advice and detailed analysis of the options to restore full access to south beach clearly showed that any plans were unaffordable at present. This meant restoring the beach to its previous condition would require 'major investment' and there was no national or regional funding available to undertake such work.
He added: 'It is absolutely clear that the work required to completely restore the beach would be hugely expensive and the funding is simply not available right now.
'National budgets are stretched to the limit following the flood damage around the country and there is a very, very long queue for funding which places beaches right at the very back.
'However, this is not the end of the story or the world by any means. Lowestoft is very fortunate to boast beautiful and very large beaches to the south of the Claremont Pier and we have an absolutely fabulous seaside offering for visitors to the town.
'This is a quintessential seaside town which is very much open for business and we are looking forward to a fantastic holiday season.'
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