New Westward Ho! rock armour tested by recent storms

An aerial view of Westward Ho!'s new rock armour

An aerial view of Westward Ho!'s new rock armour - Credit: TDC

The first phase of enhanced Sea Defences at Westward Ho! has been completed with the placement of around 2,000 tonnes of locally sourced rock armour. 

The energy dissipating structure is the first phase of a complete programme of linear defences for the region, funded by the Environment Agency, and was brought forward because of previous storm damage and flooding experienced last autumn.  

With rocks weighing 6-10 tonnes each and flat-bed lorry capacity limited to around three boulders at a time the logistics of moving such a large amount of material in a short space of time were complex. 

Once on site the boulders were moved to their final location in 25 tonne dumper trucks and craned into position. The front face of the Rock Armour was then covered by pebbles to reduce the visual impact and the impact of the structure on natural beach processes. 

Atkins and Kier, who were the main contractors for the build, supported by local sub-contractor SEL Clarke of Bideford were able to engineer the whole structure with 500 tonnes less material than originally anticipated, which resulted in cost savings in both materials and plant hire. 

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All the contractors along with Torridge Council’s engineering team worked hard over the Christmas period to complete the works in as short a time as possible and with the intention of minimising any disruption to residents and businesses. 

The structure is already doing its job and came through unscathed from the most recent storm surges last week which saw 13ft waves battering the North Devon coast. While there was some debris to be cleared following the event the main structure stood up to some of the highest waves the area has seen in recent years. 

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The council’s engineering team will continue to work on the remaining tasks such as anchoring the land side legato block over the next few months and to tidy up the work area and surrounding site with the help of Northam Burrows Rangers. 

The council's expectation is to have everything ready for what is likely to be a busy summer for the visitors and local businesses. Further Sea Defence enhancements are also planned for the area as part of multi-million-pound regional schemes being funded by the Environment Agency. 

Sir Geoffrey Cox QC, Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon, said: “I convened and chaired several meetings last year with the statutory agencies, the council and local business owners to discuss the urgent need to bring forward the planned ameliorative works to the coastal defences at Westward Ho! to protect homes and businesses. 

“In between those meetings, we kept up a constant dialogue, and I am grateful for the combined efforts of the participants, and the laudable commitment of Torridge District Council, which has led to this solution being so efficiently implemented at the end of last year. We will all now focus our attention and efforts on the next stages of the scheme.” 

Councillor Ken James, leader of Torridge District Council, said: “This has been a massive team effort by local contractors, partner agencies and Torridge Engineers to bring forward and implement the first stage of improved sea defences at Westward Ho! 

“Just in time considering the high tides and storm surge we’ve experienced over recent weekends. Congratulations to the team for a job well done and I would also like to thank residents and businesses for their understanding and cooperation during the necessary changes to access arrangements and resulting lorry movements during the build.” 

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