New sea defences are to be built to ensure that erosion does not threaten access to a visitor attraction island.
The soft clay cliffs near Trinity Road, which provides access to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay, are being gradually eroded by the sea as an existing concrete seawall now only provides partial protection.
Work is now required to stop further cliff erosion which could ultimately threaten the stability of Trinity Road.
The £210,000 project, funded by North Tyneside Council and the Environment Agency, involves connecting a series of interlocking concrete blocks to create a barrier 50m long and 6m high.
A report on the issue says: “Currently, the clay cliffs are retreating due to coastal erosion, with the rate of retreat expected to increase as sea levels are anticipated to rise.
“Erosion of the cliffs adjacent to the existing sea wall is evident. There is a two to three metre gap between the end of the sea wall and the cliff.
“If erosion continues, the removal of material will cause further outflanking which would eventually reach Trinity Road.
“Trinity Road provides the only vehicular access from the main costal road to St Mary’s Island and leads to two car parks used by tourists visiting the lighthouse and surrounding nature reserve.
“The loss of Trinity Road would result in the loss of access to St Mary’s Island.”
The scheme has been designed by the local authority’s technical services partner, Capita, which is also responsible for its delivery.
Capita is working with its construction partner ESH Group and using concrete blocks provided by Lafarge Tarmac. It is the first time that this type of sea defence system has been used in our region.
Work, which began on Monday, and will last for around five weeks. There will be no access to the public via Watts Slope during the project.
John Harrison, council cabinet member responsible for environment, said: “We’re delighted to see this important sea defence scheme is going ahead. It will ensure that a vital part of our coastline is protected from the effects of the sea for years to come. “
Meanwhile, work is currently underway to protect the sea wall at the southern promenade in Whitley Bay, which was damaged by the tidal surge of December 4 and 5 last year.
It involves replacing concrete blocks and reinstating the promenade, and erecting new railings.
The most significant damage took place at the southern promenade where a large section of sea wall collapsed into the sea and the promenade railings were swept away. The area has since been closed to the public for safety reasons.
On behalf of North Tyneside Council, Capita applied for £360,000 from the Environment Agency’s Recovery Programme to fund the repair works.
Coun Harrison said: “Last December’s storm surge was a very unusual environmental event, and although we were prepared for its impact we could not prevent the damage it caused to our sea defences.
“This particularly challenging project involves one of the most aggressive sections of coastline in North Tyneside and because of that, progress of work will be dictated by weather conditions and the state of the tide.”
The work is due to last around two months.