Views on the Swanage Seafront Masterplan – an aspirational document to guide future planning decisions – while generally positive, has revealed that the biggest concern is traffic along the seafront.
Consultants on behalf of Swanage Town Council in Dorset, drew up a draft plan in June 2023 and asked the public to give their feedback. Now the responses have been published.
A drop-in event about the Swanage Seafront Masterplan was held at The Mowlem in June 2023
Generally positive responses
The draft masterplan was created by consultants Dorset Coast Forum and attracted 147 responses from the public to the detailed document. There was also a drop-in event at The Mowlem attended by more than 130 people.
The opportunities to improve Swanage’s seafront were generally viewed favourably by the respondents to the survey – with the bulk of answers being ‘agree strongly’ or ‘agree somewhat.’
However, 46 percent of respondents felt that the masterplan had missed an opportunity. When broken down, the most responses were linked to traffic management, in particular, the northern end of Shore Road. Top issues included widening the pavement, making the road one way, reducing parking and pedestrianisation (for and against).
When Swanage gets busy!
There’s more room for cars than people along the sefront with a narrow pavement along the northern end of Shore Road
“People’s biggest concern is traffic”
Comments picked out by the consultants included
“Lots of good ideas but it is obvious from the information gathered that people’s biggest concern is traffic.”
“Excellent but traffic considerations need to be pushed further!”
“The seafront needs to move away from being for cars, and being a place for people.”
Obstructions along the pavement make life difficult for those using wheelchairs or buggies, let along those who wish to take a stroll next to family and friends along the seafront
“Expectation to review and explore traffic management solutions in 2024”
Faced with this tidal wave of opinion, Dorset Coast Forum subsequently approached Dorset Council, who is responsible for highways, to see what more could be done and it has now agreed to review the issue in 2024.
The final masterplan document, which was approved by Swanage Town Council on Monday 24th July 2023, now includes the following new paragraph:
“There is an expectation to review and explore traffic management solutions in 2024 in partnership with Dorset Council Highways, who are aware of the consultation feedback and the concerns about the narrow pavement and busy Shore Road, north of Victoria Avenue.”
The main stumbling block to any improvement is funding, with Dorset Council currently struggling with its finances due mainly to high inflation.
However, grants are available from central government for investment in regional infrastructure. In January 2023 Dorset Council was successful in securing £19.5 million of Levelling Up funding, intended for investment in Weymouth to kickstart economic growth in the town.
More easy access for all to the beach is required
The new beachmat for wheelchairs and buggies is a start to make life easier for others
Improved accessibility to the beach and seafront
The second change to the draft masterplan has been to strengthen the wording of the section on accessibility. Following an accessibility forum workshop at the beginning of July 2023, it was agreed that improved accessibility was needed for the beach but also to the seafront.
As well as a Changing Places toilet next to the beach and beach accessible wheelchairs with secure overnight storage area, other ideas have been incorporated into the plan.
These are creating dropped kerbs, improved beach access including beach ramp, matting and family zones with shade, improvements for those with visual impairments such as increasing contrast, and textured walkways, and continuing to consult with disabled groups including the newly formed Disability Reference Group in Swanage.
The issue of lack of dropped kerbs has been passed onto Dorset Council Highways, following the consultation results.
The Spa Beach Huts are top of the list for improvement due to movement of the cliff
The cracks are beginning to show!
Cliff stabilisation by Sandpit Field
The adopted Swanage Seafront Masterplan also includes a section on the stabilisation of the cliff by Sandpit Field and the Spa Beach Huts. This is work that will need to be done to prevent further subsidence.
The land is owned by Swanage Town Council so it is a project under the control of the council. It will also have to be paid for by the council and money has been allocated over a number of years in anticipation of the work.
An easterly wind and a high tide can lead to flooding and debris in the lower High Street area. This was the result of Storm Alex in October 2020
Over the winter, the seagulls may enjoy the concrete blocks but they aren’t that attractive and make access to the beach difficult
Flood allevation plans for lower High Street and The Mowlem area
The other project is the flooding defence work planned (and paid for) by the Environment Agency for the lower High Street, the Square and the slipway by The Mowlem.
Currently, unsightly concrete blocks are put along the seafront in these areas during the winter to reduce flooding, however a permanent solution is needed for the long term.
Respondents were broadly in favour of both of these projects and residents and visitors are likely to see these plans being progressed soon.
The Swanage Seafront Masterplan plans on display at The Mowlem
The drop-in event attracted a large number of people, where they could chat to Swanage Town Council councillors, staff and the Dorset Coast Forum team
“More news this autumn”
Councillor Mike Bonfield, who chaired the Swanage Town Council seafront masterplan working party said:
“I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to attend the drop-in event at The Mowlem and to give their responses to the survey on the draft masterplan.
“We really needed to know everyone’s views and what they would like to see, so we can take it all on board. Now, we can start to incorporate it into future plans.
“Hopefully there should be more news this autumn on the cliff stabilisation project which Swanage Town Council is leading on, and more on the flood alleviation plan, but that’s down to the Environment Agency, so we will have to wait and see!”