Find out about the new sandscaping solution

Bacton to Walcott coastal management scheme logo

In 2019, this multi-partner project led by North Norfolk District Council placed approximately 1.8 million cubic metres of sand on the beaches between Bacton Gas Terminal, Bacton and Walcott. As a result, the beaches have been transformed, noticeably by the beaches' height and width, which have been significantly increased and improved.

The scheme was developed following the devastating impacts of the 2013 North Sea Surge. The surge damaged and flooded homes and businesses in Bacton and Walcott and saw the loss of up to 10 metres of cliff at the Gas Terminal.

The Sandscaping scheme is based on a Dutch concept and seeks to provide natural protection by improving beach levels that absorb the sea forces before they reach the cliff and defences. The scheme protects Bacton Gas Terminal, which processes up to one-third of the UK gas demand alongside improved erosion and flood protection to Bacton and Walcott.

North Norfolk District Council delivered the Sandscaping scheme in collaboration with Shell UK Ltd, Perenco UK Ltd and the Environment Agency. These partners funded the scheme alongside Norfolk County Council, Regional Flood and Coast Committee, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Bacton Terminal Operators and the local community.

Monitoring of the Project

The Sandscaping scheme is being monitored in line with the approved Monitoring and Integrity Management Plan. This baseline monitoring is currently being intensified with additional bathymetric surveys (seabed) and LIDAR (beach). Further research is being undertaken by universities covering the fields of environment, social sciences and heritage.

Following the sand placement, it is expected that the beach profile will change and beach levels will vary and over time reduce. In the right weather and sea conditions, the beach will rebuild. It is important to remember that the beach extends below the low water mark, and this part of the beach is essential in breaking waves and absorbing energy from the sea.

How has the scheme performed

Analysis of the scheme's short-term performance during the first six months' after construction (August 2019 to February 2020) provides an insight into the scheme's behaviour since placement. It is used to validate a similar analysis carried out during the design of the scheme.

A summary of the findings of this analysis are:

  • Overall, the project area has gained sediment in the period between September 2019 and February 2020.
  • Terminal frontage has lost approximately 56,000 m3 of sediment, while the Villages frontage has gained around 112,000 m3 of sediment.
  • Beach will become less vulnerable to big changes as it moves to a more natural profile.
  • Sediment in front of the Terminal is flattening and appears to be feeding the Villages down shore.
  • There is an observable seaward movement of sediment (as expected in response to the storms that occurred and general 2019/2020 winter conditions) but no visible loss of sediment to deep water, from where it would not be able to recover in summer.
  • Overall, a large amount of sediment is displaced from the sub-aerial beach to the foreshore, signifying that the beach state is tending to more natural conditions.
  • As predicted within the design model, there was more sediment movement within the short period up to October 2019, than in the longer period until February 2020.

Analysis of the data capture up to November 2020 shows the scheme is performing as modelled:

  • Between Aug 2019 – Nov 2020 overall sediment loss from project area is broadly in line with design predictions
    • Most losses from Terminal
    • However at Villages there is a larger volume of sediment than the designed and placed profile
  • Significantly more sediment in project area than before design, this includes the beach and the seabed
  • Most significant impact by September 2020 storm event
    • Formation of subtidal bar which is typical of a post-storm beach profile and recorded in the November 2020 survey

Observations are that waves are breaking further out to sea away from the cliffs and defences and as such significant energy of the sea is being absorbed by the scheme before reaching the cliffs/defences.

Initial analysis of data captured in June 2021 again suggests the scheme is performing largely in line with the modelling. The main morphological changes are associated with the following coastal processes/features are:

  1. The scarp at the Terminal frontage has moved towards the cliffs at a similar rate as measured in previous analyses. This resulted in a loss of sediment from the sub-aerial and intertidal zones, which is not fully redistributed in the local area.
  2. The subtidal bar has moved slightly towards the beach (connecting at some points), which indicate that only a limited amount of severe storms occurred after November 2020 and that potentially some beach recovery has occurred before the survey in June 2021 (normally expected during summer).
  3. Beach levels along the village frontage are generally flush with the seawall apron.
  4. There was no significant sediment net loss or gain from the Village frontage between Nov 2020 and June 2021.
  5. Overall, there has been a loss of 247k m3 from the project area since construction. Although there was a loss of sediment from the Happisburgh frontage, this frontage overall still contains more sediment than was present just after construction (Oct 2020).

Windblown sand

Windblown sand was identified as a potential risk, particularly during the first 18 months after placement. It is expected that over time, the beach will become less prone to windblown sand.

It is predicted that over time the finer sand particles on the top layers will gradually reduce, and the coarser particles will form a natural armouring. Also, as the beach profiles (changes shape) more beach will be covered twice daily by the tide and less prone to windblown sand.

If you live or visit, please take precautions against possible impacts of windblown sand.

Over the last autumn (2020) and winter season (2020 to 2021), there were a few episodes of larger-scale windblown sand during inclement weather. As a matter of goodwill, NNDC has assisted with clearing properties etc. of excessive sand.  Following these events, the project commissioned an assessment into windblown sand, and we are now proposing to install some measures to mitigate against such events.  These measures and locations are included in this information leaflet.  Initially, any measures would be a trial, so we can assess what works best and consider extending and adapting these if needed.

Breeding Birds

The placement of sand has undoubtedly altered the beaches between Mundesley to Walcott.  This habitat will evolve over time and is hoped will benefit a range of biodiversity in the future.

The Environmental Statement and Environmental Management Plan were produced before and leading up to the schemes construction and assessed many factors including those relating to breeding birds.    Monitoring of breeding birds has and continues to be undertaken.  The most recent assessment of the breeding bird data collected and assessed by ecologists concludes “it would appear unlikely that the construction works for the Bacton to Walcott Coastal Management Scheme had any significant impact on Sand Martins”.