Work completed on £5m South Shields sea defences

A £5m sea defence at Littlehaven in South Shields has been completed by contractors Galliford Try Civil Engineering

Councillor Audrey McMillan in South Shields with the public artwork by Stephen Broadbent
Councillor Audrey McMillan in South Shields with the public artwork by Stephen Broadbent

Work has been completed on new sea defences with a heritage theme which will protect a town’s coastline.

The £5m project at Littlehaven in South Shields has now been handed over to South Tyneside Council by contractors Galliford Try Civil Engineering.

The new curved sea wall along a 500-metre stretch between the South Groyne and the River Tyne’s South Pier replaces old defences which were deteriorating and did not take into account possible future climate change consequences.

The project includes a promenade which can be illuminated by a changing series of coloured lighting and a coastal park area.

It also features an artwork, Eye and Sail, by sculptor Stephen Broadbent. Visitors can look through the eye towards the Tyne’s piers and the open sea and also through the sculpture which depicts the sail of a coble.

Stephen set out to work on the idea of centuries of people having stood at the location, watching and waiting for boats to return to the river.

He searched folk music archives in London for a suitable song on the theme and chose the Northumbrian composition Blow the Wind Southerly, in which the singer wishes for a change in the wind to bring her loved one’s boat back to the Tyne.

The song became widely known after being recorded by contralto Kathleen Ferrier in 1949.

Stephen said: “I love the location at Littlehaven. It is a very evocative place, with all the history there and the feeling of people watching and waiting.

“There are so many songs on that theme but we found a transcript of Blow the Wind Southerly written in dialect which really talks about longing and waiting.”

The words of the song will be added in aluminium letters along the promenade with a verse also on either side of the Eye sculpture.

The Littlehaven project, which has taken nine months, is part of the council’s wider vision that has recently included a new £16m swimming pool and leisure complex, Haven Point and the £2.3m Harton Quays Park. The scheme, which has also widened the existing beach by 50 metres, has received funding from South Tyneside Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water.

Audrey McMillan, vice chairman of the Foreshore Steering Group for South Tyneside Council, said: “It will add new dimensions for tourism and also give vital protection to homes and businesses from the risk of flooding.”

Bob Gibbon, regional director for Galliford Try Civil Engineering, said: “Building the new sea defences has been a challenging and satisfying project that has resulted in major improvements to Littlehaven .”

Alan Cadas, operations manager at the Environment Agency, said: “We are really pleased to see the Littlehaven works complete.

“The new sea wall will significantly improve protection against the risk of coastal flooding, replacing old defences that were deteriorating in places.”

Mike Madine, Northumbrian Water’s sewerage and new development Manager, said: “We are committed to investing £150m in flood alleviation schemes across the North East between 2010 and 2015, and we were delighted to support the Littlehaven Beach project.

“This is a fine example of partnership working on a project that will bring many benefits to the people of South Tyneside and the whole region.”

Other partners in the scheme included engineering consultants Royal Haskoning DHV and Oobe (landscape).

There will be an official opening of the Littlehaven promenade and seawall in April.

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