Surfing support for Tynemouth artificial barrier reef

THERE was a wave of support yesterday for plans to build an artificial reef off the North East coast.

THERE was a wave of support yesterday for plans to build an artificial reef off the North East coast.

The reef, which would be off North Tyneside, could boost the developing surfing and diving markets as well as doubling as a fisheries nursery and protective coastal barrier against climate change sea level rises and storm surges.

Newcastle-based marine scientist Dr Craig Rose, who has been working on the idea for five years, said yesterday: “The reef offers endless opportunities. The potential benefits for the region are huge.

“So many people could benefit and so many could contribute ideas for uses for the reef.”

The Journal reported yesterday how North Tyneside Council has been given £30,000 under the Government’s Sea Change grants programme to revitalise resorts, which will help fund a feasibility study into the reef and other projects.

And it emerged yesterday that the reef is part of a wider regeneration vision for the whole of the North Tyneside coastline from St Mary’s Island to North Shields Fish Quay – and now including Seaton Delaval Hall in adjacent Blyth Valley.

Dr Rose, 30, who lives in Gateshead and whose hobbies include surfing and diving, graduated in marine biology at Newcastle University and studied artificial reefs for his PhD. He paid particular attention to an artificial reef complex made from 175,000 concrete blocks which has just been completed at the sea Loch Linnhe in Scotland, which is now being monitored and researched.

Dr Rose set up S.E.A Consultants in 2005 and which earlier this year became part of the Wood Holmes Group strategic consultancy, of which Dr Rose is an associate director.

North Tyneside developed an interest in the reef after Dr Rose delivered a talk on the subject in the summer at a British Urban Regeneration Association conference. The feasibility study will take around four months with match funding boosting the research pot to £60,000. Uses for the reef could include:

:: Surfing. The reef could be built to manipulate waves to break in a predictable pattern and location. “It would increase the number of surfing days and create better surfing waves and more of them,” said Dr Rose.

:: Diving. “There is already a lot of diving off the North East coast and it is growing. The reef could include features of interest for divers and a training platform.”

:: Fisheries. The reef would attract marine life such as fish, crabs and lobsters and could become a nursery which would “seed” the sea to the benefit of biodiversity and commercial fishing. “By creating marine habitats it could also be used for educational and research purposes,” said Dr Rose.

:: Coastal protection. “Reef technology could be developed in the North East which, with the prospect of climate change, could put the region at the forefront of creating coastal defences but with a range of other functions.”

:: Underwater artworks. These could be linked by webcam to locations such as the Tynemouth Blue Reef aquarium and Baltic art centre.

The reef, sited around 100 metres off the shore, would cost £1.5m-£3m and would be built from materials like concrete blocks, sand bags or quarried rock.

Dr Rose is encouraging people to contact The Journal with their views – call (0191) 201-6224.

Great idea, say surfing businesses

SURFING businesses in Tynemouth yesterday hailed the reef idea.

Stephen Hudson set up the Tynemouth Surf Company in 1995, whose premises overlook Tynemouth Longsands. He said that surfing had grown to the point where on busy days there were up to 100 surfers in the water. "I think an artificial reef is a great idea. It would mean surfing on days when, at present, people can’t surf. With school or other group bookings we could guarantee waves and that is what we need."

Tynemouth has already hosted the O’Neill British Surfing Championships over three years and this weekend sees a UK professional surfers event.

The Rubber Soul surf shop opened on Tynemouth Front Street four years ago. Shop manager Chris Deeney said: "Surfing has really taken off and a reef is definitely a good idea. If you get waves breaking in the same direction and in the same places, you attract the travelling surfers and it will also allow people to practise and improve the standards of surfing."

Mike Pratt, chief executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: "The idea of creating an artificial reef off the North Tyneside coast for recreation purposes could provide opportunities to protect and extend wildlife habitats if it is executed in a sensitive way."

Anna Etchells, marketing co-ordinator at Tynemouth’s Blue Reef, said: "The idea of creating an artificial reef is extremely interesting and we look forward to working with the relevant parties to investigate it further."

Mike Pratt, chief executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: "The idea of creating an artificial reef off the North Tyneside coast for recreation purposes could provide opportunities to protect and extend wildlife habitats if it is executed in a sensitive way."

Big changes to coastal landscape on way

THE reef is one of a series of ventures being considered for the North Tyneside coast.

Trevor Robertson, North Tyneside Council head of investment and regeneration, has set up a coastal zone project board of officers with expertise in regeneration, culture, leisure, engineering and planning and representatives from One North East, English Partnerships and Nexus.

The aim is to investigate and develop ideas for the coast and explore how they can be implemented.

The Sea Change-funded study will also include looking at commercial uses for Tynemouth’s listed railway station and how its restoration can be completed, and an upgrade of the promenade between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.

This ties in with £60m regeneration plans for Whitley Bay, which include the opening in February of a new leisure pool, and the rebuilding of the Playhouse Theatre, due to open next summer.

Restoration work is under way on the listed Spanish City dome, where a number of structural problems have been encountered.

The marketing of the fitting out and future uses of the dome, and the development of derelict land around the dome, is imminent.

"We are looking for a preferred developer of status and track record. We want a quality scheme which will create a new image for Whitley Bay," said Mr Robertson. Other schemes which the Coastal Board will be examining are improved facilities at St Mary’s Island, and a new use for the empty coastguard station on the cliff edge at Tynemouth Priory.

The derelict outdoor Tynemouth swimming pool will also come under scrutiny, with options including refurbishment for leisure use – possibly surfing-related – or demolition which would mean engineering to ensure stability of the cliff into which the pool is built.

At North Shields Fish Quay, the opening out and restoration of the historic Clifford’s Fort should be complete by March.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer