Coastal protection in need urgent upgrade

A small section of the prom collapsed early in the new year
A small section of the prom collapsed early in the new year

AGEING coastal protection structures are being patched-up following recent flooding.

Shoreham Port has reviewed its procedures following floods in December and high tides in January.

The authority has found new timber groynes have worked well in Southwick, but other areas now need attention.

Communications assistant Katie Orchin said: “Shoreham Port has weathered the recent storms and high tides with grit and determination.”

The combination of high tides and strong southerly winds had a dramatic effect on the beaches in Shoreham and Southwick, with shingle levels lower now than in living memory for many of long-serving port employees.

The two new timber groynes in front of Carat’s Café saved the majority of potential flooding to the building, but the car park there took a battering and a small section of the prom was undermined, eventually collapsing early in the new year.

The engineering team is working to patch up the ageing structures, helped by the delivery of an extra 18,000 tonne of beach material from Black Rock to bolster defences.

Engineering director Tony Parker said: “I am delighted with the performance of our recent works, but we urgently need to continue our programme of groyne replacement on Southwick Beach to maintain the defences and prevent significant damage to our arterial access road.”

Work done over the past 18 months to redistribute the massive lumps of rock armour also stood strong, preventing breaches across Basin Road South and alongside the East Breakwater.

Rock armour works differently to sea walls because it is permeable, allowing it to dissipate the energy of storm waves and prevent erosion.

The area experienced the highest surge tides for decades in early December, causing problems for some of the lower-lying areas in Shoreham Harbour and the older parts of the electronic controls for the locks at Southwick.

The water level in the canal is generally maintained around 300mm above the highest tide of the day, but when the already high tide on December 5 and 6 rose by a further 800mm, there was nothing that could keep the sea back behind the lock gates.

The public walkway across to Southwick Beach had to be temporarily closed for safety, as the gates can move quite quickly of their own accord as the tide comes in.

Miss Orchin added: “We have taken the opportunity in the recent calmer weather to review our procedures and update some of the electronics to reduce the closure time and improve the robustness of the system.

“However, there will always be times when we can do no more than watch the tide flow and ebb.”

The harbour was hit again on Friday, January 3, and Saturday, January 4, when high winds battered the West Breakwater and partly ripped off the entry gates.

Shoreham Port is the largest commercial port between Southampton and Dover. The modern day harbour plays an important economic role and employs approximately 1,700 people. A further 1,000 are employed in the rest of the harbour area.