£1m grant to find ways of protecting the Portsmouth shoreline from flooding

DEFENCE The Southsea coast
DEFENCE The Southsea coast

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FLOOD defence plans for Portsmouth will be developed over the next three years after the city’s council won a £1m grant.

The council will use the cash to research sea walls for the north of Portsea Island, and measures including shingle deposits at Eastney.

The Environment Agency agreed the grant on Monday, and has set out a five-year period in which it hopes consultants and surveyors will complete their studies.

But the council believes the work can be completed in three years.

Councillor Eleanor Scott, the council’s leader for the environment, said: ‘This money shows how seriously the agency takes the flood risk in the city, and it’s very useful to us. We will employ experts to show us what the best schemes are for our coastlines, particularly the north of the island and large stretches of the south east where the risk appears to be highest at the moment. We think we can have the work done in three years, after which the next stage would be to get on with building the defences.’

A sea wall is considered to be the favoured scheme for the north coast of the city, with work including rebuilding and repairing defences already in place, and new sections to be built to improve them further.

But in the south, particularly at Eastney, studies will include creating ‘natural’ tidal barriers using shingle, to protect the beach’s environmental importance.

And to do so, some unusual investigations are likely to be needed, including using so-called ‘smart pebbles’ – micro-chipped stones which broadcast the speed and distance they’re moved by the tide.

Cllr Scott said: ‘Because of Eastney’s environmental sensitivity, we’ll make sure whatever we do there will not affect the beach negatively. So smart pebbles and other measures will be used to help us see how and where we can alter the beach by moving or adding pebbles and shingle.’

After the research is finished, construction work is expected to start by 2015 at the latest.

It may cost up to £80m.

But Cllr Scott said: ‘That money will come from a range of sources, we hope. The work’s vital because this is a heavily-populated island surrounded by sea, and protecting people and their possessions from flooding is an important priority for us.’

James Humphrys, Environment Agency area manager, said: ‘We’re delighted the council’s been awarded this money. It will go a long way to protecting more than 4,000 homes and businesses.’