Plans for £9m sea defences around Hartlepool’s Headland get councillors’ support

The sea wall close to The Heugh Gun Battery
The sea wall close to The Heugh Gun Battery

MAJOR plans to improve sea defences on the Headland in a scheme worth £9m have moved a step nearer after councillors backed the idea.

Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to strengthen the sea defences at the Heugh Gun Battery and the Block Sands.

Officials have previously warned that if no further works were carried out in the area over the next 100 years, 562 commercial and residential properties would be at risk of erosion.

The local authority is proposing to strengthen the sea defences which include encasing the existing wall and providing a rock armour structure to the toe of the wall.

The council’s neighbourhood services committee met recently to discuss the plans and approved construction of the work, subject to other necessary approvals being agreed.

Members also agreed to refer the issue to the finance and policy committee and then council to seek approval for prudential borrowing – subject to approval of the business case from the Environment Agency.

If approved, the Environment Agency will provide more than £6m of the £9m required to fund the project. If the plans get the other backing needed then engineers say work will start in March next year.

At the meeting, Alastair Smith, assistant director of neighbourhoods, reported on the background to the Strategy Study Review and the council’s proposals to manage the Headland frontage over the next 100 years.

Councillors were told the preferred option is for a low level granite rock armour sloping structures and a full concrete encasement around the Headland Walls area and a concrete stepped structure for the Block Sands.

The preferred option has been “optimised” by spreading the cost over several years, taking into account the level of exposure and the existing damage in each area to minimise costs.

A report added: “There is unwavering community support for the scheme to preserve the Headland and Block Sands, particularly the area surrounding the historic Heugh Gun Battery.”

The scheme is to be partly funded by the Environment Agency under their Flood Defence Grant in Aid programme, to the value of around £6.3m.

A further £300,000 has been secured from the Local Levy as a contribution to the scheme, while negotiations with Northumbrian Water are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the council has also offered to take responsibility for the short section of sea wall currently owned by PD Ports for a period of 100 years in exchange for a £425,000 contribution towards the cost of the capital upgrade of the seawall defences in these areas.

The council will be contributing around £2m towards the cost of the scheme, of which £200,000 has already been set aside.

It is expected a further £1.8m will be prudentially borrowed through the coastal protection budget, on the basis future maintenance costs should be substantially reduced once the scheme is complete.