Swanage gets share of £3 million to tackle coastal erosion

A share of a £3 million grant from the government to Dorset Council is to go towards reducing the risk of coastal erosion in the North Beach area of Swanage.

The money is part of the Environment Agency’s £36 million Coastal Transition Accelerator Programme (CTAP) which will be split between Swanage and Charmouth in Dorset.

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North Beach is very popular in summer – but there are issues with coastal erosion and rising sea levels

Adapting to a growing risk

Swanage’s share of the cash will be spent on improving access to North Beach and adapting local communities to the growing risk from coastal erosion – although exact details of the scheme are still up for discussion.

Chair of Swanage Town Council beach management advisory committee, councillor Mike Bonfield said:

“The town council welcomes this allocation of funds to Swanage and we are very much looking forward to working with Dorset Council and the Environment Agency to ensure that this provides real benefits to local residents.

“We have recently expanded the remit of the council’s beach management committee to become the beach management and coastal change advisory committee and this will oversee the town council’s partnership working on this and other related projects.”

The grant will be discussed at the next meeting of the town’s advisory committee on Wednesday 1st November 2023, where there will also be an update on Swanage’s other current coastal and seafront projects including flood defences, beach recharge, cliff management and seafront stabilisation.

A landslip at Sheps Hollow in May 2023 closed the beach for several days

Second wave of funds for Jurassic Coast

CTAP was first announced in March 2022 as part of the government’s £200 million flood and coast innovation programme, with £36 million being set aside to explore new ways of adapting to the effects of rising sea levels and climate change.

Initial funding went to East Yorkshire and northern Norfolk, where many coastal communities cannot be defended against erosion and which account for 84 percent of the properties at risk from rising sea levels over the next 20 years.

But on Monday 2nd October 2023, a second wave of funds was announced for the South West, with £3 million going to Bude in Cornwall and a further £3 million earmarked for Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

Dorset Council has announced that it will put together a plan of action by October 2024, then consult with communities in Swanage and Charmouth on the best way to deliver help, intending to complete works by March 2027.

The steps down to the beach at Sheps Hollow from the Ballard Estate are looking decidedly rickety due to the erosion of the cliff

“We will fully engage with Swanage”

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said:

“The next stage is to put together a business case with specific aims, objectives and actions that help communities adapt to our changing coastline.

“When we have plans and timeframes, we will fully engage with both the Swanage and Charmouth communities to further develop and deliver our proposals.

“For Swanage, proposals will involve the development of an adaptation plan for the area of North Swanage and the delivery of beach access improvements.

“In Charmouth, proposals may include improvements to the heritage centre to reduce potential damage from coastal flooding; replacing or redesigning beach access; and considering how cliff-top and other properties may adapt in the future to the eroding coastline.”

There are already warning signs at the end of footpaths from Ballard Estate

Challenges caused by extreme weather

Dorset councillor Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said:

“Looking after our natural environment and tackling the impacts of climate change are key priorities for Dorset Council, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to secure this support from the CTAP programme.

“Many of our beautiful coastal towns and villages in Dorset are vulnerable to flooding and coastal erosion and it is vital that we prepare for the challenges presented by extreme weather.

“These funds will help us work with partners and local communities to deliver ambitious projects that increase resilience and help residents and businesses get ready for the future.”

CTAP is part of the government’s wider £200 million flood and coast innovation programme, which itself is in addition to another £5.2 billion being invested in flood and coastal defences between 2021 and 2027.

Around 2,000 new flood defences are being built to better protect 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion, although most of the efforts are concentrated on East Anglia and the North East.

A view from North Swanage looking back towards town shows the attraction of the area

REBECCA POW

Floods minister and Somerset farmer’s daughter Rebecca Pow

Helping Swanage to invest and grow

Floods minister Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, said:

“It is vital that we support the communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of coastal erosion.

“The funding we have just announced will help Swanage to invest and grow as we continue to ramp up our flood and coastal erosion policies nationwide.

“As climate change brings more extreme weather, we must redouble our efforts to build a more resilient nation.

“We will always defend our coastline where it is sustainable and sensible to do so. Where it isn’t we will support communities in those areas most vulnerable to coastal erosion to prepare and adapt.”

CTAP is designed to help communities plan for the future, by improving and replacing damaged infrastructure like beach access or roads, repurposing land in coastal erosion zones for temporary car parks, and restoring and creating habitats to include green buffer zones.

The Environment Agency is managing the programme and local project teams are supporting the communities as they develop and deliver their plans.

North Beach and cliff erosion

Erosion at North Beach has already led to landslips

Sharing lessons learnt around the country

Chair of the Environment Agency Alan Lovell said:

“Following the launch of CTAP in North Norfolk and the East Riding of Yorkshire, I am pleased we are extending the programme for coastal communities in the South West.

“The £6 million of additional funding will help support communities at risk of coastal erosion in the South West to transition and adapt to climate change.

“We will also be sharing our lessons learnt and innovative approaches with coastal groups and communities around the country.”

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