New attempt to make Swanage flood defences more resilient

The temporary flood barrier made up of concrete blocks along Swanage’s seafront in Dorset is to be partly redesigned following the devastation caused by Storm Ciarán.

In November 2023, the power of the storm flung the concrete blocks across the lower High Street, only weeks after being installed for the winter, so now the Environment Agency is trying a new approach.

Storm ciaran
andy knill

During the storm, the blocks placed short end on to the sea stayed in place but those placed lengthwise were tossed across the road

On Wednesday 20th December 2023 the Environment Agency will be arriving in town with its crane truck to reorientate the blocks and add more blocks along the lower High Street stretch of the seafront.

Sara Parker from the consultants Dorset Coast Forum, which is part of the flood and coastal erosion risk management project, said:

“Storm Ciarán unfortunately took its toll on the Monkey Beach temporary wave barriers and the Swanage Town Council and Environment Agency were heroic in getting them back in situ as soon as they could.

“After consideration, and for public safety reasons, the Environment Agency is now going to reconfigure the layout to best cope with another similar storm event.

“This means that the blocks are all to be turned so they are short-end out – like at the Stone Quay Slipway location. This will happen on Wednesday 20th December and will require some additional blocks being brought in.”

Lower High Street after Storm Ciaran
Andy Knill

The debris following the storm made the lower High Street impassable to traffic

Andy Knill at Official opening of Flooding Swanage with art trail

Artist Andy Knill with some of his artwork

Headache for artist Andy Knill

While the work is expected to improve the resilience of the flood defence, it has created a headache for artist Andy Knill.

He will now have to adapt the colourful panels that he created as part of an art trail called Flooding Swanage with Art but he’s come up with a solution along with Sara. She added:

“Obviously, much of the art along that stretch by local artist Andy Knill, is designed for a long panel configuration. However, we had already planned to redo some of the panels that were damaged and having surveyed the site, Andy and I have agreed a plan of action.

“It will result in a couple of long panels being cut but we are confident the result will still be visually amazing and hope that the community are not disappointed that for a short while the blocks will be missing their artwork. Andy and I are working towards a January re-fit.”

Art on flood defence

The team from Swanage Town Council putting the panels in place in October 2023 but they will now have to temporarily remove some of the art

Removing the artwork

On Thursday 14th December 2023, a team from Swanage Town Council and Dorset Coast Forum will be removing some of the artwork from the concrete blocks along the lower High Street, in preparation for the reconfiguration work taking place the following week.

Andy is running free guided Talking Art Walks along the art trail and his next one is on Tuesday 19th December 2023, where he will be able to talk through the latest developments and explain what is going on and why.

Anyone who wishes to join in the hour long walk, needs to meet at his art studio on Commercial Road in Swanage in time for a 11 am start.

Official opening of Flooding Swanage with art trail

Andy Knill (left) and Sara Parker (right) from Dorset Coast Forum at the launch of the art trail

Permanent flood defence is planned for winter 2025

The art trail is intended to create greater awareness of the flooding issues along the seafront in Swanage. A permanent solution to the problem is being worked on by Dorset Council and the Environment Agency, with a public consultation expected in 2024 on the best approach to take.

Ideas include permanently closing the seafront stretch of the lower High Street to allow a wall to be built which will act as a sea defence but also double as a sitting area. However any long term solution is not expected to be in place until winter 2025 at the earliest.

In the meantime, the town will have to rely on the temporary flood barrier to provide protection over the winter period and it’s hoped that the new approach will be more effective.

Art on flood defence

Fortunately most of the artwork has been largely unaffected by storm damage, like this depiction of the Swanage crocodile by artist Tom Phillips

Art on flood defence

These blocks with artwork by Sophie Jenkins stayed in place

Further information

Find out more about the art trail and the Swanage Town Coastal Protection Scheme

Andy Knill is running free guided Talking Art Walks starting from his art studio on Commercial Road in Swanage from 11 am to 12 noon on:

  • Tuesday 19th December 2023
  • Wednesday 24th January 2024
  • Friday 16th February 2024

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