Team effort in Littlehaven delivers new ways to enjoy the coast

More Than a Seawall

As an example in adding value, few projects come closer than the Littlehaven Seawall in South Shields, United Kingdom. What began as a request for renewed coastal defence soon morphed into an award-winning programme of environmental regeneration.

Royal HaskoningDHV created an innovative design to replace the existing seawall based on realigning it landwards to make a larger beach area. This approach was pioneering because it challenged the traditionally held view that land must not be surrendered.

The new broader beach exploits working-with-nature principles to encourage the build-up of sand which offers additional sustainable defence. The previous aging seawall actively lowered beach levels meaning waves frequently over-topped it flooding the local car park and rendering it unusable for large parts of the year.

Exploiting Expertise
The project originated from a more extensive Shoreline Management Plan that sets out expected coastline changes and management policy over the next 100 years. As ideas for shore realignment developed, the local council began to consider how they could exploit the design to improve the local area.
The final project included a new car park, high-quality landscaping, a new streetscape with public art, feature lighting, and – significantly - the re-use of excavated material to lower the project’s environmental impact.

Attention to Environmental Detail
Project Manager Nick Cooper: “Our approach to the excavated material served several purposes. Firstly it saved on the transport and disposal of that waste elsewhere. Secondly, it reduced the overall environmental impact and cost of the scheme, and finally, it allowed us to raise the land level behind the wall to promote more efficient surface water drainage.”

Environmental impact touched more than the excavated material however. The old wall had cut off several natural sand dunes from the beach. In time, these became sand embankments rather than living dunes. We needed to remove some of them as part of the regeneration but still made sure the indigenous vegetation was replanted in the dunes along an adjacent beach.

This high-value, efficient and environmentally-sensitive approach helped our client achieve crucial government funding in order to commission the project. As well as a newly protected town, the car park is now in full use benefitting the local economy, and open beach access is improving the health and well-being of residents.

A Team Effort
Cooper is keen to stress that the success of the project lay in a true team approach. He says, “The scheme was always owned by the local community. We facilitated it, but it was a joint effort that relied on the support of local residents, the skills of other professionals such as landscape architects and contractors, and the foresight of the local council.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council and Chairman of the Foreshore Steering Group has publicly voiced the positive transformative qualities of the project. Vice Chair Audrey McMillan said, “It’s an absolutely beautiful walk along the seafront, and the best thing is it’s away from the main road so perfectly safe for young families to enjoy.”

In all, our skills were used to undertake a full option appraisal, develop the detailed design, conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment, review funding and consent issues, prepare monitoring surveys and investigations, and supervise all works on site.

Award Winning
The project has won two high profile awards to date; The Institution of Civil Engineers’ North East Robert Stephenson Award 2014, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ North East Renaissance Award 2014.

For more information on the Littlehaven Seawall project and other coastal defence projects, please contact Nick Cooper, [email protected]