Changes to Southsea sea defences scheme are revealed – and group behind it pledges to build a small mock-up before work starts

An artist's impression of what the sea defences at South Parade Pier will now look like, which shows sea views have been retained
An artist's impression of what the sea defences at South Parade Pier will now look like, which shows sea views have been retained

BIG changes have been made to the multi-million pound sea defence scheme that will run from Old Portsmouth to Eastney, and that will protect more than 8,000 homes from flooding, for years to come.

At the first meeting of the Southsea Coastal Scheme Community Stakeholder Advisory Group (SSC-CSAG), people were shown what changes have been made to the plans following the feedback of more than 1,400 people last summer.

An older version of the design for the defences at South Parade Pier, which residents did not like because of the loss of sea view when walking along the promenade

An older version of the design for the defences at South Parade Pier, which residents did not like because of the loss of sea view when walking along the promenade

Portsmouth City Council and the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) has revised the designs for sea defences at South Parade Pier after locals were concerned about the retention of sea views while walking along the pavement in front of the pier.

The rocks are now set to be buried underneath the shingle and defence heights have been reduced.

At Canoe Lake there was concern with the displacement of traffic and parking if pedestrianisation was the preferred option. Zane Gunton, project manager for the scheme, said the road will be kept as two-way with some parking retained along the frontage. 

The group was set up so the public – namely representatives of different community groups such as Southsea Seafront Campaign and Solent Protection Society – can be kept up-to-date with the progress of the project.

Each of the eight affected areas were discussed in detail and stakeholders gave their views on the plan’s changes.

Deputy council leader, Cllr Steve Pitt, is a member of the cross-party working group set up for the project – speaking to the room inside the pavilion at Southsea Tennis Club, he said: ‘I’ve found this really useful. You’ve learnt things tonight and had extra bits of information that we haven’t even received yet, so you are learning it in real-time with us. 

‘This project is not something an administration is doing it’s something we all need to do, because the defences are going to be here for the next 100 years so we need to get it right.

‘It’s really valuable to get the feedback from you guys because it keeps us thinking, some of the stuff that’s been talked about tonight will be taken away and thought about by the team. It’s an ever-refining process.’

The group will meet regularly with Portsmouth City Council, the cross-party working group and ESCP representatives.

Residents were happy to have spent the evening directly communicating with those in charge of the project and praised the benefits of doing so. Frustrations were aired at the lack of detailed designs for each of the defences made available to the public so far.

Progress was made when one resident suggested having mock-ups of parts of the defences done on the beach so people can see exactly what they would look like. The council and ESCP thought this was a fantastic idea and agreed to do it. 

Lyall Cairns, head of service at ESCP, said: ‘We want a physical representation on the beach so if we build with boxes and bits of wood what the defences would look like, then we can take some pictures and bring people down.

‘So for example if the promenade is going to be a metre higher in one place, we’ll build an artificial promenade, not to walk on, but to aid visualisation of what the real thing will look like.’

At Southsea Common the majority of residents wanted to keep the road, with few concerns about a one-way system as long as parking was retained. Mr Gunton said the road will be kept, and the majority of on-street parking.

‘The scheme will ensure the promenade and road are raised to retain and enhance sea view views

Public exhibitions will take place next month to show people how plans have changed, with updated sketches and visualisations.

There are drop-in exhibitions at the Coastguard Studio on Thursday, February 14, between 2pm and 7pm and on February 15 and 16 from 11am-5pm.