Coastal defence plans blasted

PLANS to bolster coastal defences in a historic part of Hartlepool have been met with fierce criticism from angry residents.

Around 100 residents attended a public meeting at the Borough Hall last night to hear plans to protect the Town Wall and prevent flooding on the Headland.

The proposed £1.3m scheme would see a secondary 2ft-high set back wall built next to the footpath along a 300ft stretch of the Town Wall.

Consultants speaking during the three-hour meeting say it will prevent the overtopping waves coming over the existing parapet wall, crashing onto the footpath and running down the street.

But residents say it will “compound” the existing problems.

They believe by creating a “tunnel” it will funnel the water down towards houses to the west of the wall.

A petition is set to be launched against the proposals – which are subject to funding approval from the Environment Agency.

The scheme for the conservation area includes work to strengthen the toe of the wall by installing concrete along a 420ft stretch, enlarging drainage slots in the parapet wall to allow water to drain back into the sea, regrading of the footpath and replacing damaged blocks.

Also proposed is repair work to the existing groyne, which catches materials on the beach.

Residents grilled experts from Scott Wilson consultants and the Environment Agency on a range of issues during the debate.

Stan Rennie, a Town Wall resident who is setting up the petition, said: “We oppose the secondary wall on the Town Wall.

“Making the holes bigger to drain the water will make the problem worse too.”

He added that water eight to 10 inches deep is washed down towards his home and he believes the new wall would be a “safety hazard”.

Calls were made for the beach to be reinstated and for more groynes to be installed.

Andy Pearce, project manager with Scott Wilson, said: “There are still questions with the drainage, but we are not at the detailed design stage yet.”

Phil Marshall, team leader of the flood risk mapping team at the Environment Agency, said there was a risk of flooding in that area.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “The drainage issues need to be bottomed out and I won’t agree with anything that will compound the problem or put people’s property at risk.

“But we would be failing in our duty if we sat back and did nothing because of the risk of potential flooding in that area.

“I want to find a solution that will help protect people’s property and bring insurance premiums down.”

Independent councillor John Marshall said he was not convinced the secondary wall was needed.

Alan Bell from the Morpeth Flood Action Group, spoke about his experiences after Morpeth flooded in 2008, damaging 1,000 homes.

He said some residents have since found it difficult to get insurance and said it is vital to get flood defences, but that it must be the right scheme.

The Environment Agency has backed the technical plans and a funding decision is expected in December.

More detailed plans would then be drawn up and submitted to Hartlepool Borough Council for planning approval.