Permanent flood defences proposed to transform Swanage seafront

Residents are to be consulted on plans to install permanent sea defences in Swanage, alongside the pedestrianisation of parts of the seafront to create more community spaces.

On Monday 19th October 2020, temporary concrete blocks were craned into position for the winter along the coastline in an attempt to reduce the seasonal flooding.

But now plans are progressing to build more attractive permanent barriers at three places along the front – at lower High Street, next to the Square and at Shore Road by the Mowlem.

Voted in favour of supporting a consultation

At the Swanage Town Council meeting on Monday 19th October 2020, councillors were presented with the draft plans and voted in favour of supporting a consultation with the people of Swanage to see what residents thought.

The concept is to design permanent walls, possibly made of concrete cladded with stone, that would be disguised as seating areas. To hold back the tide, they only need to be about half a metre high, so the idea is to make them as unobtrusive as possible and with a useful function.

This could work with the pedestrianisation of the lower High Street and of the southern end of Shore Road.

“Potential to create a new community space”

Rhiannon Jones, manager of Dorset Coast Forum who is coordinating the scheme said in reference to the pedestrianisation proposals:

“There is the potential to create a new community space, improve the visitor experience and increase the experience for residents by creating areas that could be used for festivals, community events and market stalls.”

There are three sections along the seafront where it is proposed to install flood defence barriers:

Lower High Street

The first area is between Swanage Pier and Gee Whites, along lower High Street. The draft plans propose pedestrianising the lower High Street from the junction of Seymer Road to the junction with Marshall Row. This would enable the wall to be built further back from the beach allowing easier access down to the shoreline.

Lower High Street had to be closed during Storm Alex in early October 2020 as debris including seaweed, sand and pebbles was strewn by the waves across the road, making it dangerous to traffic.

Debris on road and pavement

Lower High Street after Storm Alex

Swanage lower High Street
Swanage temporary flood defences

Temporary flood defences that are not as attractive as the proposed permanent flood barrier, have been put in place to help prevent the High Street flooding for this winter

The Square

This is the area next to Swanage Museum and the fish and chip shops, The Fish Plaice and The Parade. The Square regularly gets flooded as the waves overtop the seawall. The proposal is to build a wall between the Square and the sea in a similar position to where the temporary concrete blocks have been placed.

Swanage Square
Swanage Square
Swanage Square

The temporary flood defences around The Square have been placed in a similar position to where the proposed permanent sea defences would be built

Shore Road by the Mowlem

The third area to flood is by the slipway next to The Mowlem in Shore Road. There are two options here. The first is to pedestrianise Shore Road from The Mowlem to the junction with Victoria Avenue and build a wall across Shore Road by the amusement arcade. This would mean that vehicles would not be able to access Shore Road from Station Road.

The second option is to build a wall parallel to the seafront, designed as seating. This would need to stretch along most of the shoreline up to the junction with Victoria Avenue. It may also require the pedestrianisation of that part of Shore Road. This is a more expensive and more obtrusive option than the first.

Swanage seafront in Shore Road

Temporary flood defences have been put in place to help prevent the sea coming up the slipway next to The Mowlem and flooding Shore Road

Shore Road

One of the options is to pedestrianise Shore Road and build a permanent flood defence from the beach shelter across the road towards the arcades

“Fits in with the heritage and the conservation area”

In response to concerns by Councillor Caroline Finch that the flood defences could detract from the character of the area, Rhiannon Jones said:

“What we aim to do with the project is to make it a cohesive scheme that fits in with the heritage and the conservation area of Swanage and the seafront…It’s just about making sure that the scheme is done in a whole way that compliments and enhances the area.”

Cost of the proposals would be less than the cost of flood damage

Also at the meeting was Matt Hoey, who is the flood and coastal erosion manager for Dorset and BCP councils. He reported that his research showed that the cost of the proposals of around £1.5 million would be less than the potential cost of the damage caused by flooding.

He’s currently working on a number of schemes including one for Poole town centre and told the meeting:

“We could put in flood defences to really compliment the heritage of Swanage, so it wouldn’t look out of place.”

He added:

“Of all the plans, this is the scheme that I am most excited about and the sense of potential to make a change and really enhance the personality and culture of the area. This has got everything and I think it will really make a difference…compared to having roads right on your seafront – it’s got huge potential!”

If the scheme gets approval and funding then it’s expected to be a couple of years from now, before it is finished. The public consultation, when residents will get to see draft plans, should start in the next few months.

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