The key work of putting nearly 2,000 fabric bags filled with sand and shingle in place as part of the second phase of an innovative partnership scheme to provide improved protection to Thorpeness’s coastline has been finished ahead of schedule.
The scheme to reconstruct and strengthen the damaged coast defence at the northern end of Thorpeness has been made possible by a partnership involving Suffolk Coastal, the Environment Agency and local residents. This pioneering approach developed in Suffolk Coastal has now become the norm nationally as the Environment Agency aims to maximise its limited resources by backing project where there is also some local cash support.
“It is great that the £400,000 second phase scheme has completed its main and hugely important task of repairing and strengthening the damaged existing defences, so reducing the immediate threat to local homes from coastal erosion,” said Cllr Andy Smith, Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Coastal Management.
“Most of the funding is from the Government via the Environment Agency, with the remainder coming from this Council and most importantly local residents, as without their £137,000 commitment the scheme would not have got financial backing from the Government.
“A grand total of 1,856 bags were needed, 200 fewer than originally estimated, and the two weeks earlier than expected finish does mean that some money has also been saved which means that we can get on with some additional repair work to the gabions. The only drawback is that this will mean that work on site will now extend well into January, and possibly even into the start of February, but there will be no-one on site over the Christmas period from Friday, December 23 until Monday, January 9,” added Cllr Smith.
J Breheny Contractors Ltd are carrying out the work, which saw the 1,856 bags being laid eight to ten layers deep on over one and a half square miles of geo-fabric, creating a 600 foot toe-shaped structure that will provide vital support to the existing rock filled wire basket revetment.
“We are delighted that this important scheme is progressing well. The local community are to be commended for the vital part that they have played in making this scheme possible,” said Charles Beardall, Area Manager for the Environment Agency.
“Residents appreciate the care which has been taken to build a very productive working relationship with local people, and the achievement of the project within budget and schedule,” said Mike Chandler on behalf of the local community.
Because the area is still a construction site, the fencing will have to remain up over the Christmas period and closed to public access. People are being asked to keep out of the site, even during the period when there is no site work taking place.
“I would apologise for any inconvenience but taking the fencing down, clearing the site and then putting it up again would cost money and mean that not as much vital defence works could be done. As soon as we can open up the site to everyone we will. We are now carrying out repairs to the existing gabions – the wire, rock filled baskets that were put in place during 1976 and damaged during last year’s severe storms,” added Cllr Smith.
The high tidal surge on Sunday, November 27 peaked at 2.4 metres and brought with it lots of shingle onto the beach, covering most of the phase 2 bags and the lower parts of the existing gabions. Only the newly built out section at the northern end was left exposed. The storms continued over the following days and the good news is that all the structures and the beach stood up well to everything that was thrown at them. The return of the shingle confirmed the predictions of Suffolk Coastal and its consultants that 2010 was an exception event and that the shingle would return.
“However, we now have to dig out more of the beach to expose the gabions to carry out the repairs that they need. We are laying new rubber coated wire mesh to form two metre by two metre compartments which are then filled with four to eight inch rocks which are crammed together to form eight inch deep horizontal layers. This repair offers additional protection to the lower part of the gabions which are pounded by the sea on each high tide,” added Cllr Smith.
In June 2010, the northern part of Thorpeness village suffered unusual and significant coastal erosion which damaged the existing defences and eroded adjacent undefended frontages.
Following emergency works by Suffolk Coastal after June 2010 to contain the damage, phase one of the defence works was started last October with 1,450 large geo-textile bags filled with sand and shingle being put in place in front of the eroded cliff to the south of the 1976 gabion structure.
Getting phase two of the works underway as early as possible was essential as the original gabion defence is so damaged that it was unlikely to offer adequate protection over the coming year.