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Date published: 25th September 2019

North Norfolk District Council, together with its project partners, has marked the completion of the Bacton to Walcott Sandscaping Scheme, that has been several years in development, at a celebratory event held in Bacton and Walcott (Friday 20 September).

The UK-first, multi-partner project and internationally significant undertaking has been designed to protect the local communities of Bacton and Walcott and critical infrastructure at the Bacton Gas Terminal site from the North Sea; the bold new approach is expected to offer 15-20 years of protection from coastal erosion and the effects of climate change to this stretch of North Norfolk’s coastline.

‘Sandscaping’, the most visually striking element of the Scheme, saw approximately 1.8million cubic metres of sand placed and engineered on Bacton and Walcott beaches creating significantly wider beaches and much-improved access.

School children from Bacton Primary School joined guests, including Ms. Brechje Schwachöfer, Deputy Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to celebrate at Walcott beach where they built sandcastles on the newly expanded beach and a sand artist recreated Ham 318. The vessel became a familiar site off the North Norfolk coast as it pumped sand onto the beaches during the summer after taking it from licensed dredging areas.

The sand placement has substantially increased the height and width of the beaches, and the waves and tides will help distribute the sand along this part of the coast. This natural defence will protect the coast from erosion and reduce risk of flooding. In addition to keeping the neighbouring communities safe, the scheme re-creates the dry beaches that the area used to have, while also potentially creating new habitats to enhance biodiversity.

North Norfolk District Council’s Chairman, Cllr. Clive Stockton, led celebrations for the local community later in the day, cutting a ribbon and declaring the new beaches at Walcott and Bacton officially open.

Cllr. Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council’s Leader, said: “After the major storm surge in December 2013 where we saw damage and absolute devastation to the local communities of Bacton and Walcott, we had to do something. This positive and collaborative approach is a prime example of engineering with nature, and has been designed to address the current threat of coastal erosion and its devastating impact which here in North Norfolk we are all too familiar with.

“I am delighted to see lots of people enjoying the vast expanses of beach that this project has created and am looking forward to exploring the possibility of adding another blue flag to our current offer of six award winners here in North Norfolk.”

Dr David Tudor, Head of Minerals and Coastal, at The Crown Estate said: “This is the first sandscaping scheme anywhere outside the Netherlands and I’m delighted that we’ve helped to bring this exciting new approach to the UK for the first-time. This scheme is harnessing the power of nature, using natural coastal processes to move sand along the coast and feed the areas which need it most, safeguarding vital infrastructure and communities.”  

Sinead Lynch, Shell UK Country Chair, speaking at the event, said: "The teams across this project have worked hand in glove to protect this critical national infrastructure. We wouldn't have got here without exceptional levels of private and public partnership, collaboration, and technical innovation. The clear benefit for both the local community and national economy is evident, and we should both applaud and shine a light on this great work".

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: "The climate crisis requires innovation and collaboration between countries, organisations, sectors and communities. The Bacton to Walcott scheme is a model for other climate resilience projects, protecting key national infrastructure while also delivering added coastal protection to the local villages. It is an example of how very different organisations from the private and public sector can work together to deliver a variety of benefits which would just not happen by working in isolation."

Jaap Flikweert, Flood and Coastal Management Advisor at Royal HaskoningDHV explained: “The sand will give the communities and the terminal owners 15-20 years of protection – during which time the wind and the tides will gradually move the sand around and eat it away. This period will give the local communities and businesses more time to further adapt to coastal erosion and climate change and decide on their future. In addition, the sandscaping solution provides a great beach for recreation and tourism. The sand was placed in a way that could initiate natural dune growth and boost biodiversity.”

Jan Zwart, Team Van Oord, said: “We’re proud to have contributed to the safeguarding of the Bacton to Walcott’s coastline, thereby protecting local homes, communities and critical infrastructure. The sandscaping works, together with the construction and installation of a new outfall system for the Gas Terminals, have been delivered without health, safety and environmental incident and within the agreed programme.  It is great to again be involved in the innovative Sand Motor concept, this time in the United Kingdom.”

 Photo credit - Chris Taylor.

Last updated: 25th September 2019