Two options to stabilise the eroding cliff under Sandpit Field – Swanage’s major event space – have been drawn up by architects, and both will cost Swanage Town Council millions of pounds.
A stark choice is being offered between undertaking the essential stabilisation of the cliff at a cost of £4m, or going for an ambitious £11m scheme which will totally relandscape Sandpit Field and the Spa Beach Huts into one large green space and completely remove one end of Walrond Road.
The area along Swanage seafront that needs to be stabilised
Cost exceeds the money in the council’s reserves
The plans for the Swanage Town Council owned land have been created by global engineering company WSP, working alongside consultants Dorset Coast Forum and local councillors. WSP was recently responsible for the redesign of Weymouth station.
The cost of both schemes, even the basic plan, exceed the amount of money that Swanage Town Council has in its reserves. Currently it holds £3.85m, of which £3.5m is available to fund the seafront stabilisation.
This means that both will require the council to borrow money, sell assets or obtain grants to cover the additional cost.
Sandpit Field was gifted to the town by the executors of Arthur Rainsford Mowlem in 1990, while Weather Station Field was given by John Ernest Mowlem to the former Swanage Urban District Council in 1924.
The area has grown in importance to Swanage as more events like the folk, jazz, pirate and fairy festivals make use of the space, attracting thousands of visitors to the town. It is also, of course, the home of Swanage Carnival, the largest event on the South Coast.
The enhanced scheme requires the removal of the World War Two lookout from Sandpit Field and it’s not sure from the plans if this impressive tree would be saved
Under the enhanced scheme Walrond Road would be filled in, joining Weather Station Field (pictured) to Sandpit Field
Shore Road enhancements not included
What neither scheme does is tackle the issue of Shore Road which runs along the seafront.
The results of the Swanage Seafront Masterplan survey indicated that 46 percent of all respondents felt that the management of traffic along Shore Road required greater focus with the most popular responses being pedestrianisation of Shore Road, making Shore Road one way and reducing parking along the seafront.
However Shore Road comes under the responsibility of Dorset Council highways and while it has agreed to review the management of traffic along Swanage seafront in 2024, Swanage Town Council says it has no power to force these changes, so is focusing on what it can achieve.
While the enhanced scheme proposes closing part of Walrond Road, it is not a strategic thoroughfare like Shore Road, so the change would be more straightforward, although there would still have to be consultation and a legal process. It is unlikely that Shore Road improvements will be part of this project.
Option one: The essential scheme costing £4m
Option one: The essential scheme
This option would stabilise the area and retain Sandpit Field as a large events field while retaining current features of the fields with greenery and stone walls.
It would retain the character of the area, reinstate the number of Spa Beach Huts previously lost to ground slippage and the Bathgate toilets would be enhanced, although they will remain a distance away from the beach huts. It would not improve accessibility.
Estimated cost £4m. The council reserves would cover most of the cost.
Option two: The enhanced scheme costing £11m
Option two: The enhanced scheme
This option would stabilise and significantly enhance the area with the removal of Walrond Road to create more green space linking up Sandpit Field with the Spa Beach Huts. This option offers increased accessibility and enhanced event space but will be a radical change.
A much gentler slope would be created by removing soil at the front of Sandpit Field making the area easier to access and providing space for a cafe and new toilets but this will mean the loss of the current look of the area including the World War Two lookout. The soil removed could be used to fill in Walrond Road.
The current Spa Beach Huts would be replaced with new beach huts.
Estimated cost £11m. This scheme is significantly more costly than the essential scheme but could attract government Levelling Up funding by creating accessibility and boosting the tourism economy.
The Spa Beach Huts would be improved under both schemes but only made accessible under the enhanced option
The evidence of subsidence is clear to see with very visible cracks
“We have got to do something”
Councillor Mike Bonfield, who has led on the project said:
“There isn’t an option to do nothing as we know the ground is moving. Over the last 18 months it has gotten even worse with visible cracks in the walls and uneven pathways.
“So we have got to do something to ensure we retain this hugely important green area for residents and visitors to enjoy, and also protect it for all the events like Swanage Carnival for the future.
“There are two options to consider and I’d really urge everyone – residents and holidaymakers – to look at them both closely and let us know what they think, the good and the bad, by completing the survey. We are doing this for Swanage and we really want to hear what you have to say!”
Sandpit Field hosts Swanage Carnival every year…
…as well as the Swanage and Purbeck Rotary Fete among other events
- Saturday 23rd September – Information stall on seafront
- Friday 6th October – Information stall at the market
- Thursday 19th October – Drop in engagement event at The Mowlem 4 pm to 7 pm
- Tuesday 31st October – Public consultation closes, survey and engagement event data reviewed
- Consultation data passed onto Swanage Town Council for review
- Consultation report made publicly available
- Swanage Town Council decides on an option to take forward
Sandpit Field during Swanage Carnival