Campaigners raise new fears about design of proposed Southsea sea defences 

Southsea Coastal scheme
Southsea Coastal scheme

PROPOSED sea defences will not fail, Portsmouth City Council has insisted as campaigners again raised fears over the plans

The Southsea Seafront Campaign was concerned by the news that £27m sea walls in Blackpool, installed in 2014,  were reported as 'crumbling' in August, believing the plans for defences at Southsea to be similar.

With both designs contracted by Balfour Beatty and the concrete steps positioned beneath shingle, the group were worried defences for Southsea could suffer the same fate.

But Cllr Dave Ashmore, the council's environment boss, explained how the designs differ.

He said: 'Our scheme is very different to the one in Blackpool.

'The coastline in the north west of England is not comparable with ours, with a much bigger tidal range than Southsea (nine metres compared to 5.5 metres) and has very shallow sandy beaches as opposed to our shingle beaches.

'In addition, the issue in Blackpool has happened at the bottom of the sea defence, which is routinely 2 metres below high tide level.

'The exposed areas of our defences are not going to be placed in the normal tidal zone at all, with protection provided by either by the shingle beach, rock armour, or a combination of both.

'The approach we've taken with the design of the Southsea scheme is also different, with our project is being designed and delivered by a single delivery team as a complete project.

'If you combine all these factors, you can see it is impossible to make an accurate comparison between the two schemes.'

But Southsea resident and member of the Southesa Seafront Campaign, Celia Clark, was not convinced.

She said: 'All they have said is it is not the same. They have got to be forced to show what is different and how it is different. As far as I can see it is very similar.'

She also criticised the way public consultations were carried out and added: 'This is the Environment Agency forcing everyone to be fast which is wrong, particularly after the failure at Blackpool. It is shocking behaviour really on behalf of the public.

'The public haven't been able to have a say until it's too late. Each section needs to have a detailed public workshop.

'With the layout of the questionnaire it seems like anyone who had a different idea, other than the 'option one' or 'option two' choice, will be ignored. All of this continues to be top down.

'The redesign is essential, particularly in view of what happened in Blackpool. Just telling us 'this is what we are going to do' is not acceptable.'

More than 1,400 local residents filled out the sea defence questionnaire, highlighting their preferred options, and around 1,700 attended the events which were held across the city in July.

A cross-party group will consider the results of the questionnaires and release a report on the results at the end of September.