Why does Langstone’s Heritage Matter?

Ann Griffiths, a Langstone resident for 50 years, addressed this question in a letter recently published by the Hayling Herald (shown above). Read the full text below.

Dear Editor,

We are currently faced with the possibility of damaging the character and appearance of parts of Langstone’s historic waterfront, in order to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion. So why does that matter?

The local community, together with various public bodies, are merely temporary custodians of a village that contains fourteen vulnerable listed buildings and it is the opinion of many residents that the most important thing is to stabilize the existing coastal footpaths and walls or to rebuild them in such a way that they can accommodate further flood protection measures in the future, if and when that becomes necessary. An alternative, long-term solution would be to build a breakwater to protect Langstone from serious flooding and this deserves further exploration.

Conservation areas have to adapt to change but that change has to be managed, so that the appearance of the Langstone waterfront is not radically altered all in one fell swoop. Adding the proposed glass screening and timber board walk and hiding the historic wall west of the High Street with another lower wall, would introduce alien materials and boundaries and the residents would lose that sense of place which is so important to their well-being. Added to that, a wall in front of the Royal Oak quay would alter the proportions of the listed buildings when viewed from near or far and the scheme as a whole would restrict the open access to the shore.

Never again would we see the tide spilling over the footpaths and up the High Street, which it has done for a couple of hours every now and then, for hundreds of years. (Householders are responsible for protecting their properties from flooding and know how to do this by using flood boards and sandbags). Should the situation change in future then we would need to think again. The current £376,000 feasibility study has been valuable in looking at some of the options and has got people thinking about what they do and don’t want in the way of flood defences and there may have to be some compromising on both sides..

In the meantime defending the eroding railway spit, perhaps with rocks, would not seem to be too controversial, the residents of Mill Lane can probably agree to a scheme that would give better protection with minimal harm to the environment and the character of the conservation area and it may be possible to protect the quay car park and the Ship Inn without harming the view of what was originally a large malt house and is now a listed pub. The area between the Ship and the Old Mill is a different matter because of its unique historic setting and its tourism value to the Borough. Walkers, bird watchers, rowers, diners and drinkers all flock here to enjoy all that Langstone has to offer.

Langstone Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan.

Once designated the local planning authority has a duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area, in the exercise of its planning functions. The nature of the harbour views fluctuates with the state of the tide, with large tracts of inter-tidal land being exposed at low water, but whatever the state of the tide, the sense of space is the overriding impression.”

Langstone Conservation Area is also favoured with an Article 4 direction, which restricts permitted development unless planning permission is first obtained. This helps to protect the character of the buildings and their settings and enabled us to save things like the Royal Oak privy,which had been destined for demolition.

Langstone invites people to settle in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, because of its unique charm. Property values, which are not relevant in planning matters, take into account all the pros and cons of living by the sea and two pubs. We are lucky to live here and we have to ensure that we make the right flood defence decisions, not necessarily the cheapest ones, so that we can maintain and enjoy our special relationship with Chichester Harbour.

See the East Solent Coastal Partnership website for information on the Langstone Coastal Defence Study. https://www.escp.org.uk/langstone

Ann Griffiths
Tower Gardens, Langstone

Residents’ Meeting Report

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.

Langstone residents oppose unfit flood defence plans

More than 130 concerned residents have registered their support for a campaign opposing proposed coastal defences during a meeting at historic Langstone village, in Hampshire.

Hosted by the recently formed “Save Our Shore” (SOS) action group, the meeting explained how the East Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) is championing its preferred development option for flood defences on Langstone’s shoreline – even though stakeholder meetings have made it clear the proposals are unacceptable.

In an open forum, multiple residents spoke about the many unaddressed concerns over the scheme’s suitability in terms of effectiveness, recreational access and aesthetics within the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Save Our Shore campaign issued a statement which said: “As they are spending an allocated £376,000 of public money, we’re asking ESCP and Havant Borough Council to reconsider these unacceptable plans as their preferred option and to get more residents involved so they can have their say before a further £450,000 is spent finalising detailed plans. After that the scheme will cost millions to build and runs a huge risk of failing in its aims.

“Of course, everyone in Langstone village and the wider Havant area appreciates the need for coastal defences but we feel a real duty to ensure that the plan is absolutely right. We’re talking about protecting centuries of history in this unique environment for the next 100 years and we believe there are much better solutions to be explored.”

The ESCP is currently planning drop-in sessions in early January at which its preferred plans could be viewed but previous sessions were poorly attended due to insufficient publicity. This resulted in minimal public engagement. As a result, the SOS group decided to hold its own meeting to provide a robust means of measuring true majority opinion with the aim of stopping the wrong plan going forward as a fait accompli.

The SOS group is asking for the drop-in sessions to be postponed indefinitely whilst it seeks a meeting with elected representatives to secure the future of the village against the damage of current proposals.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the plans so far can view a PDF with information as well as before and after illustrations at: www.soslangstone.org

Created by the SOS group with information provided so far by ESCP, the document shows how the proposed defences will restrict sea views, detract from historic buildings and limit access to the foreshore.

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