A draft document billed as a masterplan, has been published identifying areas of the seafront in Swanage that could benefit from investment.
Consultants on behalf of Swanage Town Council, launched a public consultation in October 2022 and from those responses have drawn up what they call, “A practical working strategy that will provide a vision to unlock the potential of the seafront and help make decisions about its future” as well as, “an aspirational vision”.
The seafront – Swanage’s largest asset
Highlights, issues and opportunities
The 40 page draft Swanage Seafront Masterplan produced by consultants Dorset Coast Forum has divided the seafront into five zones and listed the highlights, issues and opportunities for each area.
The five zones
- Zone A: Pier Entrance to Stone Quay
- Zone B: Stone Quay to The Mowlem
- Zone C: Promenade from The Mowlem to the Banjo Jetty
- Zone D: Promenade from Banjo Jetty to Ocean Bay
- Zone E: Recreation Ground, Sandpit Field, Weather Station Field and the Spa beach hut area
Every year the Environment Agency puts in place unattractive concrete blocks along the lower High Street to help prevent flooding but there’s already plans in the pipeline for a permanent solution
Often there’s flooding and debris before the flood barrier is installed for winter
“Pull all the work together into a cohesive plan”
Lead councillor on the seafront masterplan is former mayor Mike Bonfield. He said:
“We’ve never really managed to have a long term vision for the seafront – probably our most important asset – so we’re trying to get a consensus from people in Swanage and other stakeholders like Dorset Council and the Environment Agency, on what direction we should take over the next 10 to 15 years.
“We know that the ground around Sandpit Field is subsiding, so we’ve got to come up with a plan to stabilise the area. We also have a flooding problem around the lower High Street, The Square and around The Mowlem, so work needs to be done there too.
“I guess we’re thinking that we need to pull all the work together into a cohesive plan and make sure that we tackle a few other jobs as well, like addressing how we can best use the tarmac area off Shore Road, currently known as the Hardstanding, as well as looking at issues with Shore Road itself.”
Cracks are starting to appear in the Spa beach hut area
The first part of the process was the public consultation which included a survey and a number of face to face engagement meetings including pop-up information stalls along the seafront and at the Swanage Friday market. There were 1,045 responses to the survey.
Unsurprisingly the survey found that 86 percent agreed that the seafront was well cared for. The most liked element of the seafront was the views (25 percent of survey responses), followed by the sandy beach (23 percent) and the seafront’s unspoilt nature (15 percent).
Throwing out the question to everyone, the survey asked, ‘How would you improve the seafront?’
There were a total of 925 responses to this question and the most popular themes receiving the most mentions were:
- Pedestrianise Shore Road completely: 145 mentions / 16 percent of respondents
- Diversity of food outlets: 101 mentions / 11 percent of respondents
- Pedestrianise Shore Road from The Mowlem to Banjo Jetty: 92 mentions / 10 percent of respondents
- Seating: 86 mentions / 9 percent of respondents
- Widen the Shore Road pavement: 76 mentions / 8 percent of respondents
- More bins/waste removal: 70 mentions / 8 percent of respondents
- Don’t change it: 57 mentions / 6 percent of respondents
- Disability access: 57 mentions / 6 percent of respondents
- Pop up market/food stalls: 49 mentions / 5 percent of respondents
- No parking: 48 mentions / 5 percent of respondents
- Make Shore Road one way: 47 mentions / 5 percent of respondents
- Pedestrianise Pierhead: 37 mentions / 4 percent of respondents
- Planters/planting: 33 mentions / 4 percent of respondents
- Restore The Mowlem: 30 mentions / 3 percent of respondents
- Increased biodiversity: 29 mentions / 3 percent of respondents
- Ocean bay revamp: 29 mentions / 3 percent of respondents
- More toilets/longer opening hours: 28 mentions / 3 percent of respondents
- Utilise hardstanding: 24 mentions / 3 percent of respondents
The people’s choice – pedestrianise Shore Road, but Dorset Council will have to get on board
Big plans for the Spa beach huts, partly to tackle the ground movement but also the land is owned by Swanage Town Council so it has the power to instigate change
Most ambitious on town council-owned land
From all of the consultation work and discussion with Swanage Town councillors, a draft Swanage Seafront Masterplan was published on Monday 19th June 2023.
Other seaside towns have drawn up masterplans including nearby Weymouth. In January 2023 a plan was drawn up for the town with bold ideas backed up by architect drawings but has since stalled. While many councillors thought the ideas were ambitious and visionary, others felt that it was undeliverable because it relied on too much buy-in from Dorset Council and that was unlikely to happen. The ideas were also uncosted.
Taking this on board, the most ambitious elements of the Swanage Seafront Masterplan are on the land owned and controlled by Swanage Town Council like the tarmac area off Shore Road and the Spa beach huts. However in the highway areas controlled by Dorset Council like Shore Road, the plan is less bold.
This proves a conundrum for Swanage Town Council as top of the list to improve the seafront, according to the public survey was the pedestrianisation of Shore Road – an area that is not within its power to change and will be expensive to deliver.
However changes to the tarmac area off Shore Road, also known evocatively as the Hardstanding was the least mentioned area for change but is owned by Swanage Town Council and could be redesigned on a budget.
Zone A: Pier Entrance to Stone Quay
- Create a pedestrian friendly open space as part of flood defence improvements
- Create a welcoming space for people arriving at this end of town
- Develop ways in which a new flood protection wall can benefit the area
- Enhancements to Stone Quay
Is this a welcoming space for people arriving in the town from Broad Road carpark?
Could lower High Street be redesigned as a pedestrian friendly open space as part of flood protection improvements? A flood barrier designed as seating has been mooted
Zone B: Stone Quay to The Mowlem
- Improve the appearance of the seafront arcade and public toilets
- Swanage Town Coastal Protection Scheme to fit into the zone’s character and add benefit to the space
- Regeneration of The Square into an attractive and accessible space
- Improve access to the sea via Parish slipway for small craft
- Regeneration of Swan Brook outlet into an attractive and accessible space that improves connectivity to the town
- Improved wayfinding to help promote the town
Battered by the sea, could the amusements get a new coat of paint?
The seagulls love the bins but could The Square be made more attractive for people?
Love it or loathe it, most would agree that this is not the best side of The Mowlem, but it’s a well used walk way from Institute Road to the seafront, so could the bins be hidden?
Zone C: Promenade from The Mowlem to the Banjo Jetty
- The regeneration of the closed section of Shore Road into a promenade
- Redesign the ‘Mowlem Triangle’ to make another welcoming entrance
- Swanage Town Coastal Protection Scheme to add benefit to the local area
- Redesign site of former bus shelter and tarmac area in front of children’s fun park
- Improve accessibility to the beach
- Re-imagining The Mowlem building
The Mowlem Triangle – perhaps the installation of an artwork or plants would make for a better focal point than a lamppost and cluttered signs? And what about The Mowlem itself – perhaps new windows?
Is this the area outside The Mowlem to make into an accessible beach with ramps, beach wheelchair and a changing places toilet??
The old bus shelter area, often called the Hardstanding – could it be redesigned with seating and a canopy for pop-up markets, live music and theatre performances?
The closure of part of Shore Road is currently being trialled. If it was made permanent perhaps it could be redesigned for activities and events with more greenery to provide shade?
Zone D: Promenade from Banjo Jetty to Ocean Bay
- Explore traffic management improvements on Shore Road and the potential to widen the promenade
- Improved seating and shelter
- Beach recharge
- Banjo Jetty improvements
More seating on the Banjo Jetty is possible
Perhaps make the shelters accessible for wheelchair users?
The Shore Road pavement slalom course – impossible for wheelchairs and prams. Why not widen the pavement? Or even pedestrianise the whole stretch of road?
Zone E: Recreation Ground, Sandpit Field, Weather Station Field and the Spa beach hut area
- Ground stabilisation of Sandpit Field, Weather Station Field and the Spa beach hut area
- Redesign of Sandpit and Weather Station Fields
- Increase biodiversity
- Enhanced use of the area whilst retaining space for events
The Spa beach hut area is a top priority for Swanage Town Council as ground movement is forcing redevelopment, so this area will change with or without human intervention! Perhaps improved, accessible beach huts, cafe, showers and toilets could be built?
Plans to retain Sandpit Field for large events is a given but perhaps enhanced water, electric and Wi-Fi facilities would be an improvement?
Filling in the sea end of Walrond Road to link the two green spaces, is perhaps the most radical idea in the masterplan!
“It’s no good just commenting on social media”
A public drop-in event is being held between 4 pm and 7 pm on Thursday 22nd June 2023 at the Showbar at The Mowlem. This is an opportunity to speak to the consultants and understand the plan better.
Councillor Mike Bonfield added:
“This document is a draft so I’m really urging people to come along to the meeting at The Mowlem to find out more and contribute towards the final version.
“It’s no good just commenting on social media, we really need to get the views and thoughts from everyone, so please do fill in the survey!”
“Further public consultation”
Following this consultation on the draft plan, it will be redrafted to reflect the feedback and then the final version will be launched. The masterplan will then inform future planning decisions.
The masterplan concludes:
“Each project will have its own set of options relating to engineering, town planning and transportation, its own need to work with partners, and its own funding arrangements.
“To achieve the opportunities presented in the masterplan, Swanage Town Council will need to work in partnership with a wide range of organisations, statutory bodies, and businesses. Any large-scale proposals will be subject to further public consultation.
“Opportunities that are likely to be taken forward in the near future are related to the stabilisation of Sandpit Field and the Spa Beach hut area. Consultation on that project is expected in 2023.
“Additionally, the Swanage Town Coastal Protection Scheme, led by Dorset Council’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Team, in partnership with the Environment Agency, Swanage Town Council and Dorset Coast Forum.”