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Racing the storms

Collaboration between three local authorities has secured funding for a massive programme of flood defence work on the north west coast of England, as Jon Masters reports.

In recent weeks, funding has been secured and construction contracts have been signed for the first main phases of what is claimed to be Britain’s biggest coastal defence project after the Thames flood barrier. The Fylde Peninsula Coastal Programme (FPCP) may ultimately exceed £100M in value, partly because it will strengthen the sea defences of three neighbouring authorities.

Blackpool Borough Council, Wyre Council and Fylde Borough Council are working together on the scheme with Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and consultants Haskoning and CH2M Hill. As a team, their first task was to secure £86M of grant funding from the Environment Agency, which they achieved in just over 12 months.

Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are reported to have remarked on how quickly and efficiently the project team has got to this point. According to FPCP project manager and Blackpool coastal manager Mike Pomfret, the three local authorities have collectively spent only £700,000 on work needed to secure the £86M of Environment Agency funding.

“If the Rossall stretch of wall is left unstrengthened for a further 10 years, the prediction worsens to a one in one year storm”

Mike Pomfret, FPCP

“This project has worked well so far undoubtedly due to the multi-organisation approach,” says Pomfret.

“We’ve had the political backing and strengths of all three authorities, the consultants and Balfour Beatty helping us. The Environment Agency’s regional representative has sat on the project board and we’ve had the Agency’s national capital programme management service assessing business cases, so there has been good governance and project assurance.”

The £86M of grant funding provides for £64M of new sea defences along 2km of coastline at Rossall and a similar but smaller scheme 3km further south at Anchorsholme. Both sites have been identified as needing urgent attention. Risk of a serious breach of the existing defences threatens 12,000 properties on low lying land along the Fylde coastline.

The existing concrete sea walls at Anchorsholme and Rossall were built in the 1930s. A catastrophic breach in 1977 led to the defences at Rossall being raised so that they are now 4m above the level of the ground behind.

The existing walls have deteriorated considerably at both sites.

One in one year storm

“It is estimated that the Rossall defences would be breached by a one in 75 year storm event, but if this stretch of wall is left unstrengthened for a further 10 years, the prediction worsens to a one in one year storm,” says Pomfret.

At Anchorsholme the problem is more acute. Concrete slabs are peeling away from the sloping apron in front of the wall. The current probability of a breach at Anchorsholme has been estimated to be a one in 10 year event.

The epicentre of the severe storm that battered much of England last month passed to the south of Lancashire and the Fylde Peninsula.

“We were on the periphery of that storm, which in this area was actually more like a one in two year event. The fear is that a really big one is on its way,” says Pomfret.

The Fylde, Wyre and Blackpool local authorities have joined forces to reduce costs in council run services, including strategic management of 29km of the Fylde Peninsula coastline.

“Work will be carried out through a design and build contract, so we have the resources of Balfour Beatty and its consultant for the detailed design,” Pomfret says.

The contract has been procured via an early contractor involvement (ECI) approach, he adds. “Procurement was carried out to European rules with the intention of bringing in a preferred bidder to help with building the funding submissions and design, on the understanding that if the grants were secured we would commit to the same preferred contractor for carrying out the works,” explains Pomfret.

“Having a contractor on board through ECI has helped enormously in costing up the different options and getting market rates to build robust prices for the funding submissions.”

“Having a contractor on board through ECI has helped enormously in costing up the different options “

Mike Pomfret, FPCP


The planned new defences at Rossall and Anchorsholme will have a 100 year design life, are are designed to withstand a one in 200 year storm.

Work at Anchorsholme will essentially involve replacing the existing defences with a new sea wall and revetment of precast concrete slabs and reconstruction of the promenade structure behind. The needs are greater at

Rossall, where a harder rock revetment will provide protection for the new sea wall.

While the overall wave climates of both sites are similar, Pomfret says deeper water and lower beach levels at Rossall and a beach with a greater predominance of shingle combine to create larger waves and more abrasion.
“There will also be rock groynes constructed at Rossall and backfilling against the 1930s structure to conserve its integrity, as there is room to do so between the old wall and the roadway behind,” he explains.

Key to securing funding for both projects has been completion and approval of all three local authorities’ individual shoreline management plans, strategies for delivering them and project appraisal reports. This is where consultants Haskoning and C2HM have come in.

Each strategy contains a number of schemes and prioritises them over time. Additional work that may be added to the FPCP includes £15M to £20M of sea defence strengthening at the southern edge of the peninsula. High

level business cases are currently being drawn up for these works.

“The Blackpool and Wyre strategies have been rubber stamped. Approval of the Fylde strategy is imminent,” says Pomfret.

“We have also needed about a one to five cost benefit ratio, which gives an indication of the importance of these two projects alone. The costs total £86M but the benefits for the 12,000 or so homes at risk are more than five times that amount.”

Work is due to start on the new Fylde defences next spring. Construction is expected to finish at Anchorsholme in the summer of 2015 and at Rossall in 2017.

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