Coast Road between South Shields and Whitburn could be moved further inland to save route from coastal erosion

Cliff erosion on Coast Road. File picture Copyright: JPIMedia The A183 Coast Road, which cuts through The Leas between South Shields and Whitburn, could be moved away from crumbling cliffs to give it a longer lifespan.

The potential move was discussed as concerns were raised about the future of South Tyneside’s seafront as coastal erosion takes its toll. Earlier in 2020, South Tyneside Council revealed plans to reposition fencing after surveys revealed that caves were forming under the coastal footpath near the Lime Kilns. The cliff top path was closed off between Souter Lighthouse and Marsden Grotto due to erosion in 2019.

Copyright: Johnston Press

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Although the cliff top barriers are set to be moved later this month, the borough’s changing coastline continues to bring complex challenges. One option being considered by council bosses includes moving the A183 further inland due to the closing gap between traffic and the cliff edge. On Tuesday March 3, the council’s Place Select Committee drilled into the details following a presentation from Operations Manager for Coastal Protection, Laura Turvey.

Councillors heard that the coastline is kept in check with a Shoreline Management Plan, regular monitoring and laser scanning – a technology which helped identify issues under the coastal footpath. In recent years, the council has also improved coastal defences at Littlehaven Promenade and Sandhaven foreshore, alongside works to safeguard Trow Quarry from erosion and the outwash of contaminated materials into the sea. ‘Astronomical’ costs make other methods unlikely

Several councillors called for answers over the future of the coast road in South Shields. Coun Gladys Hobson said: “I know it’s difficult because it’s limestone and it’s eroding all the time but that is a major highway and we need to try and protect it as much as we can.” Laura Turvey told the meeting: “I do have a few very high level options for the coast road and it’s something that the transport team will be looking at.

“One of those was to potentially move the carriageway slightly more inland and that would provide a further 50 years of protection based on current erosion rates. “However, we need to look at that in much more detail before coming forward with any proposals for approval.” The council officer added that engineering solutions, such as “infilling” emerging caves, were unlikely due to the “astronomical” costs.

At previous meetings, council bosses have said coastal erosion work focuses on ‘adaptation’ rather than ‘protection’, in line with Government advice. Councillors were reassured that Marsden Grotto is partially protected from erosion as Marsden Rock screens the site from waves. But they also raised concerns about severe weather events, rising tides and the impact of climate change on the coastline.

Cabinet member for Area Management and Community Safety, Coun Joan Atkinson, said the Government needs to play its part. “This topic is very much at the behest of our seasons and natural forces but we know that climate change is having an impact across the world,” she said. “I think the challenge we have as a council is significant investment which may have to be found somewhere going forward with regards to communication about the caves, what more could be done and the concern of members here about when and how we will do it.”

Coun Atkinson added: “Whilst we have a wonderful resource, we do need to think ahead absolutely but so does national Government and the Environment Agency as to how they can support that for the future of us all.” ‘Please, sir, can I want some more’ The debate on coastal erosion came during the Place Select Committee’s first session of the commission into ‘The Future of South Shields as a Seaside Town.’

Committee chair, Coun Ernest Gibson, also sits at chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group which lobbies for the country’s coastal towns and communities. The group aims to increase awareness on environmental, economic and social issues while pressuring the Government on policy and funding. Coun Gibson told the meeting: “Through the LGA we will be lobbying and raising concerns for every authority.

“But the way austerity is, it’s like Oliver Twist going and asking for more money.”

Councillors heard that the upcoming Year of the English Coast 2021 programme would provide an opportunity to raise awareness of coastal challenges in South Tyneside.

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