Studland starts to plan for more flooding and coastal erosion

Much of Studland in Dorset, owned by the National Trust, is expected to be ravaged by flooding and coastal erosion over the next 50 years, so work has started on producing a masterplan on how best to cope.

As a first step, drop-in events for local residents were held in Studland village hall on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th July 2024 and a survey has been launched to collect people’s views on Studland’s future.

Studland coastal erosion consultation

A drop-in event at Studland village hall to start the conversation

Masterplan for the next 20 to 50 years

The aim is to produce a plan called Future Studland which will look ahead for the next 20 to 50 years.

It will consider the balance between serving the needs of a large number of visitors and being an important place for wildlife. It will also include options for travel and transport, accessibility and the infrastructure like Knoll Beach cafe.

The Future Studland masterplan includes the area of the peninsula from Shell Bay to Old Harry, and will cover proposals for the beaches, roads, services and habitats, as well as the village itself.

Busy Knoll Beach at Studland

On hot sunny days Knoll Beach is packed with visitors

Knoll beach Studland in the rain

Balancing tourism with nature at Studland

Managed retreat policy

Under government policy, the Environment Agency is tasked to protect homes and businesses from flooding in England but this mainly applies to urban areas.

In places like Studland – a wildlife-rich peninsula of sandy beaches and heathland – there is a policy of allowing the sea to reclaim the land.

This policy of managed retreat means that no sea defences will be built to stop the cliffs from eroding or the land from flooding but there is scope to put in place measures to help reduce the effect of the changes.

So how can this best be achieved in Studland?

Knoll beach carpark at Studland in the rain

On a rainy day in July it’s easy to imagine what a waterlogged Knoll Beach car park will look like in the future as the sea advances

Knoll beach car park at Studland in the rain

It’s forecast that much of Knoll Beach car park will have been reclaimed by the sea by 2074

“Undoubtedly complex”

General manager for the National Trust in Purbeck,Tracey Churcher said:

“With the coast at Studland changing so rapidly, we need to consider how we can continue to provide great visitor infrastructure and manage nature conservation on the precious heathlands over the next fifty years.

“It is undoubtedly complex as whilst some issues relate entirely to relocating our facilities in the face of their imminent loss through coastal erosion. Others such as transport and access are wider issues which will need agencies across the area working together to bring about change.

“For the engagement, we are working closely with statutory organisations, partners, tenants and other stakeholders to shape our plans. We would also very much like members of the public to share their views and ideas.”

Middle Beach Cafe at Studland

Middle Beach cafe was demolished by the National Trust to prevent it sucumbing to coastal erosion, but only after a long fight against the wishes of many residents

Sandy salt pig at middle beach Studland

Middle Beach cafe was replaced with the Sandy Salt Pig in Middle Beach car park, further away from the crumbling cliff

Knoll beach Studland in the rain

Now Knoll Beach cafe is under threat due to the managed retreat policy but maybe it’s time for change?

“Start of the conversation”

The process of information gathering is being done by consultants Dorset Coast Forum on behalf of the National Trust.

As well as the drop in sessions, the Dorset Coast Forum team will be out on the beaches over the summer seeking and collating the views of residents, visitors, and local businesses.

There is also an online survey available to enable more people to take part.

Project officer for Dorset Coast Forum, Elaine Snow said:

“This is the start of the conversation. We want to know how people use the area and what they want for the future. Even if they want things to stay the same as much as possible, we need to hear that.

“We are looking at visitor distribution – which beaches are most used and why. Also how do people get in and out and travel about? What are the views on park and ride? We’d like to gauge the reaction to that sort of new possibility.

“How much is the natural habitat appreciated and how do visitors learn more? Studland beaches are completely different from the nearby urban beaches but what do people want from a coastal location? There’s a discussion to be had about the infrastructure – cafes, toilets, waste bins and car parks.

“It’s predicted that Knoll Beach cafe and much of the car park will be flooded in 50 years, so what should be done? Do we just move it or rethink the whole thing and change it?

“There’s opportunities as well as challenges, so I’d really urge people to have their say and fill out the survey!”

What next for Studland after Storm Ciarán caused five years of erosion in one day? Have your say!

The aftermath of Storm Ciarán in November 2023 saw the cliff collapse at Middle Beach

Storm Ciaran - Digger preparing to move a vulnerable beach hut back from edge of collased dune
NT Studland

Beach huts that had been set back from the beach now found themselves much closer to the sea after Storm Ciarán

Years of coastal erosion in just two high tides

In Studland, the power of Storm Ciarán in November 2023 claimed two beach huts, eroded cliffs and sand dunes and radically reduced the amount of beach area.

At the time, the National Trust estimated that the amount of coastal erosion that happened over two high tides, was equivalent to what would have been expected to occur over four to five years.

The storm left trees and debris over the beaches and made it hazardous particularly around Middle Beach with collapsed footpaths between the beach and the car park. Although controversial, the Middle Beach cafe had already been removed due to the risk of the ground eroding.

Since then the National Trust has restored the areas that it could. However many residents would like the conservation charity to do more.

Car park full sign at Knoll Beach car park in Studland

In summer, Knoll Beach car park can be full, so what is the plan for when it’s been reclaimed by the sea in 50 years time?

Ferry Road in Studland

A ‘linear car park’ and a camper van ‘eyesore’ in one of the most protected nature-rich areas of the world

“Ferry Road is an eyesore of camper vans”

Chair of Studland parish council Nick Boulter said:

“People in the village feel neglected by the National Trust. After the removal of Middle Beach cafe and the storm damage, there seems to be a real lack of vision.

“Now Knoll Beach cafe looks likely to be lost to the policy of managed retreat as it will become waterlogged with no sea defences, and there’s no feeling that the National Trust wants to fight to preserve what we’ve got.

“There could be a case to protect parts of our coastline and push back on the government but there appears no will to do so.

“The other issue is car parking. Ferry Road is an eyesore of camper vans parking illegally overnight and there’s no enforcement by Dorset Council. Just over the ferry, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council tow away vehicles parked illegally, so they just come over to us.

“There’s a real contradiction when it’s said that we must manage Studland for nature, but really Ferry Road has just become a linear car park for dog walkers.

“With the potential loss of the car park at Knoll Beach, where is everyone going to park? The National Trust needs to provide an attractive alternative, otherwise there will be even more dangerous parking in the village and across people’s drives.

“It’s good to have this consultation – we’ve only got praise for the Dorset Coast Forum team who have gone out of their way to engage with everyone. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.”

The first draft of the results is due in autumn 2024, with the Future Studland plan expected to be completed in 2025.

Studland coastal erosion consultation

Tell them what you think!

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