Westward Ho! sea defence works brought forward as matter of urgency

Storm Ellen brought big waves to Westward Ho! at high tide back in August. Picture: Graham Hobbs

Storm Ellen brought big waves to Westward Ho! at high tide back in August. Picture: Graham Hobbs - Credit: Graham Hobbs

Work to strengthen sea defences at Westward Ho! will start this week after a long term project was brought forward as a matter of urgency.

Westward Ho! beach and Northam Burrows have borne the brunt of storms, high tides and strong winds in recent weeks, resulting in flooding and disruption and damage to businesses.

While Torridge District Council (TDC) has been working with partner agencies to reinforce affected areas, recycling some 600 tonnes of pebbles, it has prompted a long term programme of work to be brought forward before any further winter storms.

The linear defence works were initially scheduled to go ahead in early 2021, with TDC working with the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Now, from the beginning of December, more than 2,560 tonnes of rock armour will be delivered over a three-week period.

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The eight-tonne energy dissipating boulders will be placed in front of concrete Legato blocks, forming the backbone of the first phase of the works.

The works will be funded by TDC in the interim but will ultimately be paid for by the Environment Agency as part of the wider linear defence scheme for the region.

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Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox said: “It is extremely welcome news that work is due to start to strengthen the coastal defences at Westward Ho! before Christmas, with contractors appointed and rock armour scheduled to arrive.

“I have convened and chaired several meetings in the 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 have kept up a constant dialogue, and I am grateful for the combined efforts of the participants, and the laudable commitment of Torridge District Council to achieve a solution before the end of the year, which have ensured these vital works are taking place now pending the execution of a long term strategic solution for Westward Ho!.”

The council has acknowledged the transfer of boulders will cause disruption, with rocks set to brought in up to four at a time on lorries.

Access to Northam Burrows from Pebbleridge Road will be closed.

TDC said the work will be scheduled to minimise disruption as far as possible and it is also asking for the public’s cooperation to adhere to road closures and other restrictions so work can be completed without interruption.

TDC leader Councillor Ken James said: “The teams involved in this project have been working flat out not only to make safe the existing structure damaged by the recent storms but also to bring forward the longer-term programme for defences.

“We regret that some residents and businesses may be inconvenienced due to the scale of these works, but they are necessary to protect the area from further breaches or even a potential more catastrophic failure of the existing defences.

“We would like people to know that we had planned for a longer lead in time, including more time to consult with those most likely to be affected by the works.

“However, due to the urgency this hasn’t been possible, but we will continue to adjust and modify our approach where the process allows to limit and moderate any disruption.”

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