Relief as work finally gets underway to fix damaged sea defences at Hill Head

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BEACH hut owners, residents and dog walkers have spoken of their relief that urgent work to stabilise a damaged sea wall has begun.

The work to repair the defences at Hill Head and allow the promenade to reopen started on Wednesday.

Tony Pepper, 69, left, with other Hill Head residents Brian Ray, 79, and Christina Gilbert, 58, with her dog Ellie, 11''Picture: Sarah Standing (160083-7434)

Tony Pepper, 69, left, with other Hill Head residents Brian Ray, 79, and Christina Gilbert, 58, with her dog Ellie, 11''Picture: Sarah Standing (160083-7434)

Tony Pepper, from Old Street, Hill Head, owns a beach hut next to the damaged defences.

He spent Christmas Day building up shingle around his hut, as he feared it would be damaged by the sea. He also emptied his hut in case it got washed away.

The 69-year-old said he first reported the damage to Fareham Borough Council and the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership, which are both responsible for the stretch, in October 2014.

He said: ‘No repairs were done and then in October last year I wrote to them again saying I didn’t believe the promenade would survive the next storm and the coming winter. I was bang on.’

The area of the beach at Hill Head that has been affected by damage to the sea wall ''Picture: Fareham Borough Council

The area of the beach at Hill Head that has been affected by damage to the sea wall ''Picture: Fareham Borough Council

Mr Pepper also wrote to the local MP Caroline Dinenage in the hope of her being able to secure emergency funding, but as no properties are at risk from the damage, no funding is available, with the repair cost having to be met by Fareham council.

Now Mr Pepper says he is pleased to see emergency work finally taking place.

‘I am very happy that they are doing the work,’ he said.

‘I feel they are finally taking notice, both the ESCP and Fareham council have acknowledged the problem and I’m pleased they are putting it right.’

Dog walker Christine Gilbert, 58, from Hill Head, said she was also pleased to see work start.

‘It would have been a shame to lose it,’ she said.

Another regular beach user, Brian Ray, 79, from Hill Head, said: ‘They have been ignoring it for years. A stitch in time would’ve saved nine.’

The work, which is expected to cost about £250,000, will see a temporary wall made of concrete bags put in front of the damaged seawall.

Work will also be done on the overhang at the timber groyne with sheetpiles installed. Further investigations will take place on the damaged sheetpiles and rock gabions near Hill Head Sailing Club, and on the damaged beach groyne, so that a more permanent fix can be found.

Executive member for planning Cllr Keith Evans said: ‘The ESCP, which acts as an integral part of the council, has been working closely with us to identify the best way forward for this historically challenging area.

‘I am pleased that a solution, albeit temporary, has been found and work is now under way to stabilise the area. It will soon be business as usual for beach hut owners and residents.

‘Looking to the future, we are now embarking on finding a permanent solution.

‘Studies will begin shortly to determine and agree the best way forward to replace these aging defences.’

A footpath diversion has been put in place and the promenade is expected to reopen by the end of January.