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West Beach Erosion

Those of us regularly visiting/using West Beach are well aware of the following: the ESCP's erosion appears to be much faster and without Government level intervention, this will not change; west of Inn on the Beach there is now scouring of the remaining revetment that might result in its future removal, on H&S grounds, too; HBC's proposed regeneration line looks likely to be overtaken, Hayling Golf Club's driving range itself has now featured heavy beach shingle well beyond its fencing & the Par 3 Course is only yards away from frequent lines of tidal seaweed. How exactly is the much touted Coastal Pathway, connecting Hayling's coastlines - themselves to be 'let go' or managed retreat - with the mainland and Southsea, to be created let alone maintained with this low level of official response? At this rate, HBC's proposed beach regeneration will have to feature floating pods, accessible by floating means only!

This issue of coastal erosion surely underlines the fundamental concerns of all residents - and businesses - on Hayling. It is real and already having an impact on all of us, one way or another, whether individuals realize it or not. The HIRA Public Meetings that I've organized and run since 2015 have included those who provide insight into life on Hayling; the ESCP presentation graphically demonstrated coastal engineers' findings and Hayling's prospects. Recent weeks and months now reveal that, without more pro-active preventative measures, Hayling may be losing far more of our southern coastline far faster than officialdom acknowledges.

The following is Havant Borough Council's response to residents' and kite-surfers' expressed complaints that West Beach's car park is being steadily reduced in size, owing to that Beach's coastal erosion:

"We have taken the pragmatic decision to suspend parking at the top end of West Beach car park due to the increasingly hazardous condition present.

The following extract provides details of the West Beach car park, and I would hope help to explain the reasons for the recent decisions taken. The extract is from a report produced by the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ECSP), of which Havant Borough Council is a member:

West Beach car park is an area of compacted shingle and grass. Access is via a tarmac roadway. There are no designated car parking spaces, with the exception of disabled parking bays. The whole site on the seafront is a designated Sinah common Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI), important for its rare shingle flora, which is managed by Havant Borough Council on behalf of Natural England.

Our erosion mapping and risk bands illustrate that the car park is in the red and yellow risk zones. Erosion is occurring at a faster rate than expected near the tip of the revetment, though there is very little change at the golf course end. A typical winter storm will lead to spray, more significant events will over top water into these areas, which causes the beach crest to roll back. The risk is greater during winter spring tides which occur every 14 days and produce the greatest tide height. For information, NORSE have just removed exposed steel bolts on the West Beach timber revetment.

I have set out below the council’s strategy with regard to coastal management at West Beach Hayling Island. The timber sea defences at West Beach were built by Havant Borough Council in 1976, in response to beach erosion. These structures have been regularly maintained, and we estimate the council has invested over £1M in these repairs as they are exposed to wave action on a daily basis. Despite this, the timbers are now nearing the end of their functional life. In 2008 the Council took the decision to continue to extend the life of these structures where possible until they became a significant health and safety risk, and then to remove them. This decision is in line with North Solent Shoreline Management Plan which recommends a ‘Hold the Line’ policy along the South Hayling frontage but allowing the shoreline around the south west of Hayling Island to evolve naturally with minimal interference.

Following storm damage the first sections of timber revetment were removed in 2012 and 2013, allowing the beach to evolve naturally, which as you point out led to the need to relocate the beach huts. In March 2018 the timber groynes at West Beach were outflanked by the beach retreat and were removed prior to their collapse, the remaining beach huts were then relocated. Further details on the history of coastal management at West Beach is included on our webpage here:

The decision not to replace the revetments and groynes was driven by the policy for the site and the disproportionate cost of replacing them. There is currently no funding mechanism available from central government to maintain or construct new coastal defences at West Beach, as there are no residential properties at risk from coastal flooding or erosion at this location. Any new defences would come at a considerable cost (estimated at £3M-£5M) and would have to be funded from Council budgets. Even when balanced against potential future income from the car park, this is a significant funding requirement and needs to be consider against other budget pressures across the wider borough.

Anecdotal feedback from local water sport users suggests that removal of the groynes here was a positive step as it lead to a more natural embayment and reduced the risk of collision with these structures. However this leads to a shift in the current land use as the coastline adjusts, and future development needs to be appropriate to the level of coastal flood and erosion risk. The council vision for West Beach is embrace this change, to work with coastal processes and improve the facilities for water sports and avoid potential conflict with other beach user. We are sharing this vision via a workshop in January to engage with all beach users, where they can consider our plans and help shape them.

During this winter season we have already seen further erosion of the beach area (as below), and we have endeavoured to carry out sympathetic repairs.

Given that the surface of the car park is not tarmac, only certain materials can be used for repairs, and specifically these tend to be negatively impacted by adverse weather conditions given their 'temporary' nature. As the beach erodes (and or gets flooded) we would need to continuously make repairs to the car park which are likely to be washed away due to anticipated high tides during this time of year. This is already evident by the potholes that have been created in recent weeks.

Taking all of this into account, including the potential safety issues arising as a consequence of the winter weather, a decision was taken to close this section of the car park. Whilst it is acknowledged that this may inconvenience those who prefer to use West Beach, safety of those visiting the area has to take priority.

We will continue to monitor the situation and consider re-opening this area of the car park if it is safe to do so.

Kind regards


Sean McKay

Team Leader

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