MEETING HELD ON 3 DECEMBER 2019
TO DISCUSS THE PREFERRED PROPOSAL BY THE EAST SOLENT COASTAL PARTNERSHIP (ESCP) TO ERECT FLOOD DEFENCE BARRIERS ON PART OF THE LANGSTONE SHORELINE
The meeting was held at the Langstone Sailing Club.
More than 130 local residents attended as well as officers from the Harbour Conservancy, two Councillors and a guest speaker.
Prior to the meeting, a printed booklet with visuals illustrating the impact of ESCP’s proposed scheme was distributed to local residents and other interested parties.
The meeting was organised and run by a group of five local residents to gather support for the SOS “Save Our Shores” campaign. Martin Murphy opened the meeting by introducing himself and the other four members of the SOS campaign group: Richard Leslie, Ann Griffiths, Peter Oliver and Andy Lewis.
The objectives of the group – to protect a unique historic asset; review the ESCP preferred option and investigate alternative options with Havant Borough Council and ESCP.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring residents up to date and to obtain a mandate from residents for SOS to represent Langstone during any future meetings with HBC, ESCP and other agencies involved in the flood defence of Langstone. He emphatically urged Langstone residents to ‘have your say’.
It was emphasised that the funds obtained from government by Alan Mak to fund a project to find ways to protect Langstone from very high floods was welcome. The Village needs to be protected. ESCP were delegated the task and unfortunately their current proposals are completely unacceptable to SOS.
Alan Mak and Havant Borough councillors had been invited to attend the meeting but invitations were declined – they are in “purdah” running up to the General Election. Two local councillors Beryl Francis did attend as an interested resident, and identified herself to the meeting as well as Rosie Raines of the East Hayling ward.
ESCP declined attendance due to other priorities.
Two members of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy were present, Richard Craven, Director and Harbour Master and Richard Austin AONB Manager.
ESCP have been involved in projects elsewhere locally along the South Coast of Hampshire. In this context, Dr Celia Clark (Portsmouth Society) attended the meeting as a guest speaker. She explained that despite a petition with 4000 signatures and a well-researched alternative, ESCP bulldozed on with their scheme to protect Southsea beach. Eventually they won some small concessions, but it was an unfair process, and the beach is now a mass of concrete. It was agreed that Dr Clark would help the SOS group to get to an acceptable alternative to the current proposal.
A PowerPoint presentation reminded residents of the serious consequences of ESCP preferred option along the foreshore. It also showed Langstone was had been divided into three areas by ESCP, each with differing concerns none of which had been clearly addressed by ESCP.
The three areas are “front line” (Oak to Ship including the High Street), the area of the Langstone Sailing Club and thirdly the Mill Lane Harbourside area.
The problems for “front line” residents were more complex (affect the wider community) because it involved preserving the aesthetics of a national icon – the foreshore.
the Royal Oak and The Old Mill. Mill Lane/ Harbourside residents were concerned by property values but also needed to understand the true longevity of existing defences so they can better judge any future design options offered by ESCP.
John Radford from the Sailing Club spoke saying flooding events were naturally to be expected in the area, and preparations for them were well rehearsed. It was particularly concerning that neglect had resulted in the Hayling Billy spit eroding at a fast rate. The spit protects the Sailing Club to some degree, and by default the bridge, the main road and the Langstone High Street.
A significant volume of the spit has already gone. John showed pictures of how alarmingly fast this area has retreated in recent years. The proposals by ESCP were unfit for protecting the Spit. Their proposed wall would not withstand the forces of the Sea.
The importance of the Spit means it should be more seriously considered within a total protection package for Langstone. Elsewhere the Council has mentioned the Billy Line in their traffic plans as providing a route for electric vehicles or other traffic in the future which would provide additional reasons for not allowing it to deteriorate further.
Many residents had difficulty understanding ESCP drawings and we were surprised that a company of ESCP calibre had not included visuals in its “drop in” programme. Consequently, there had been misunderstanding forcing the SOS group to produce helpful visuals.
ESCP claim that:
- preliminary environmental and heritage studies are complete.
- community engagement has produced options, and preferred options have been identified.
- the preferred options have been shared with local residents, businesses and landowners. Work with landowners has taken place to try to identify additional funding.
- an alternative option involving an offshore breakwater and flood gates will not be progressed due to significant technical, social, environmental and cost issues (see later in this report).
By contrast, SOS were concerned the ESCP statements above excluded important stakeholders. ESCP meetings were called only to advise their preferred option. No comprehensive meeting minutes were circulated. There was no obvious acknowledgement of the strong dissent at the meetings. There is now concern that the project is gaining a momentum of its own based upon an inaccurate portrayal that it has local support.
Another issue was that access to the Old Mill is dangerously affected by the proposed ESCP plan which effectively traps the residents of The Old Mill in flood conditions as they would have to climb over a closed gate on the sea wall to reach dry land.
There is also the issue of a resident being in charge of opening and closing the High Street gate in the event of high flood risk.
The area is a beautiful and historic natural asset, a popular tourist location and widely photographed both for its natural habitat for birds and its historic buildings. Social gatherings using The Royal Oak quay, access from the quayside to the foreshore for walkers, dog-walkers, sailors and for children playing are all an important part of community life in Langstone. The ESCP proposal would spoil this national asset for everyone. The aesthetic would be completely lost.
The meeting held a Q&A where every question / statement from the “floor” was in support of rejecting the proposals from ESCP and examining alternative schemes.
Peter Oliver described the breakwater alternative proposed to ESCP. The scheme has been rejected by ESCP and they will not do any more work on it, a status which is unacceptable.
SOS do not believe they took the alternative seriously – for instance they claimed it would cost £15 – £20 million after comparing it with the Cowes Breakwater.
The Cowes breakwater is 10 metres high, in a more hostile location and cost £7.5 million. A breakwater at Langstone needs to be 1/3rd the height to provide greater protection than the ESCP solution. SOS estimate the works will cost about £ 1.78 million. ESCP estimate the Langstone breakwater option would cost £15 – £20 million but have provided no satisfactory explanation of their 10 fold discrepancy in their estimate.
A breakwater solution would need several gates to manage the water levels in the inner harbour so that they could not exceed present spring tide levels , and to retain the tidal characteristics of the foreshore .ESCP costs include a huge amount for electric gates , whereas simple canal style gates operating with the force of the water would be much cheaper, all this well within the estimated £6 million for ESCP proposals.
The gates, open except at abnormal tides, would provide access to boats, boarders, canoeists, windsurfers and unlike the ESCP proposal they could tie up at the quay and visit the pub.
Malcolm Snowdon (resident) thought the visuals showed how silly the proposals were, stating there must be another way to protect our environment. Speaking as an engineer he believed a bigger picture should also be considered which included all the other areas of risk within Chichester harbour. On that basis it might be viable to install flood gates at the entrances to the harbours. This point was taken by others suggesting sea-going locks perhaps with in-built power generation.
It was acknowledged that this could be a very expensive solution, albeit there would be cash from power generation. It would only be feasible with a wider area being protected Mike Head (resident) said sea-going locks only need to support over 4.9m of water (not all the time), built at the entrance to Chichester Harbour and at the entrance to Langstone Harbour Thus there would be would be protection over a wide area.
It was suggested that expertise for such a solution is available through local resident, Mike Healey, with his connections in Holland.
It was noted we need to know how much ESCP scheme costs and how much an alternative scheme would cost. SOS understand that ESCP proposals could cost £6 million plus and it is notable they have not raised the funds yet. The ESCP proposals remain too vague to make a proper accurate estimate.
Several speakers stated that the idea of dealing with the whole issue by one group seems good, but also to include a plan to repair and maintain the existing walling as a sea defence in the short term because it is not meeting the current needs.
‘The Ship’ area is in need of ongoing maintenance but that is not involved in the ESCP proposal. The landlord of ‘The Ship’. reported there had been preliminary discussions ESCP involving some of their brewery’s architects. There has been no progress so far mainly because a large financial contribution from Fullers will be needed for defences outside the Ship.
The Conservancy reported that they have had meetings with ESCP. ESCP called it the ‘preferred’ choice but the conservancy do not know how they concluded that. Ongoing meetings were planned.
Green King Brewery are aware of the proposals and have refused to give ESCP funding. Besides the loss of trade (no sea views or people enjoying a beer on the quay) there was a concern the present proposal would make deliveries to the Royal Oak difficult.
Overall some 25 residents spoke, all rejecting ESCP proposals and looking for another way forward.
Participants were asked to fill in a card with their name and email address to keep for future circulation of information. There was also a box to indicate support for the SOS group to represent the residents in the Campaign. The returned cards showed an overwhelming support for SOS and their objectives.