ONE of Yorkshire’s most popular attractions could be at risk from devastating landslips unless action is taken to repair a sea wall, it has been claimed.
The Yorkshire Post reported yesterday that councillors in Scarborough will next week examine plans for a new 1.1 metre (3.6ft) sea wall around a stretch of the resort’s South Bay designed to protect the area from the ravages of the North Sea and the incre,asing risks of climate change.
However, the scheme will also play a key part in stabilising the cliff behind the famous Scarborough Spa complex which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Experts say the cliff is already showing evidence of damage owing to landslide movements which could endanger the spa, posing a similar risk to the notorious Holbeck Hall Hotel landslip less than a mile to the south in 1993.
Scarborough Borough Council’s Cabinet will look at six options for the work but are being urged to back a move which would see a new wave wall constructed 1.1m above walkway level, with rock armour in front of the existing sea wall and major slope stabilisation works.
Council officials say the move is the best option on cost and environmental grounds to bolster defences.
The improvements could also open the way to further development of the spa to attract new businesses and attractions.
Councillor Andrew Backhouse, the council’s cabinet portfolio holder for coastal and flood defences, said it was clear coastal defences, including the sea wall dating back to the 1840s, were now approaching the end of their life despite continuing maintenance and repair. They played a key role not only in protecting the seafront but also the stability of the cliff.
“The cliff behind the spa complex is known to be the site of a pre-existing landslide, prone to both frequent shallow small-scale landslides and rare major deep-seated landslides,” he said.
“A major landslide has the potential to endanger the spa complex and associated sea walls, leading to further coastal erosion and landsliding affecting cliff-top properties and adjacent frontages.
“There is already evidence of damage due to landslide movement in the cliffs behind the spa. Landslide risk is linked to the integrity of sea defences and as the condition of the current defences worsens, so the chance of a major landslide event increases.
“The current height of the sea walls is not sufficient to prevent severe wave overtopping, which causes damage to the promenades and adjacent areas and presents a serious risk to public safety.
“The current problems will be compounded further by the effects of climate change. The predicted rise in sea levels and increase in storm conditions means that sea defences will become the subject of much more forceful waves at greater frequency – and the potential for overtopping and breaching will undoubtedly increase.
“Contrary to some reports in the media, we are approaching the point when we can no longer just simply pursue a tactic of make do and mend. The sea defences are inadequate, wave overtopping is well beyond safe levels and will get worse and the effectiveness of these coastal defences continues to deteriorate.”
A business case will be submitted to the Environment Agency once an option has been selected so further cash can be secured for the detailed design, planning applications, further public consultation and delivery of the scheme.
But councillors are warning that under new Government funding arrangements, it remains unclear if the agency will be in a position to fund the cost of the project. If there are no stumbling blocks, work could begin by the summer of 2014. The changes follow the adoption of the Scarborough Coastal Defence Strategy in 2007 which agreed measures to improve protection on the coastline.