Damaged sea defences – Langstone Mill Pond to Wade Lane, Havant
A recent inspection at Langstone Mill Pond has highlighted a damaged section of sea defence, approximately 15m in overall length, as documented in the follow photos and mapping. Investigations have been undertaken by Coastal Partners to understand the interested authorities and parties’ views on this issue, which are summarised below.
Interested Parties & Responsibilities
The land forming the footpath and sea defence is unregistered. The intertidal area is owned by Chichester Harbour Conservancy, while the land to the rear of the footpath is privately owned. Therefore the owner and maintainer of this section of coastline and associated sea defences is unknown.
The Environment Agency (EA) has powers under the Floods and Water Management Act 2010 to protect homes from flooding and there is no responsibility or legal obligation for the EA to maintain sea defences north of Langstone Mill Pond.
There are no homes at risk of flooding behind these defences and therefore no justification to use Flood Defence Grant in Aid to maintain or replace the sea wall. However the EA is always willing to work with any partners who may seek to deliver a solution.
Havant Borough Council
Havant Borough Council (HBC) do not have any responsibility or legal obligation to maintain sea defences. They have Permissive Powers under the Coast Protection Act 1949 to undertake coastal protection works but only where there is a wider public benefit in doing so, such as flood risk to life and property. This is not the case here.
We are concerned that the current isolated damage could potentially lead to a larger failure in the longer term, and therefore loss of the footpath and public access along the coastline.
HBC are not able to attract any external funding to undertake the remedial works but if funds could be raised by interested parties then we would consider using HBC’s permissive powers to undertake remedial works on their behalf through our specialist supply chain but would not provide any ongoing commitment or assurances for any future repairs. We would not act in isolation to repair this damage for fear of setting a precedent, as the wider defences are also in a poor condition.
Hampshire County Council (HCC) Area Access Team
The County Council Countryside Area Access Team has limited funds, and their priority is maintaining access along public Rights of Way, which include footpaths at Langstone. Part of the Team’s statutory duty is to maintain the surface of Rights of Way. Along this stretch of coastline the Solent Way, Wayfarer’s Walk and Footpath 56 comprise the footpath on top of the seawall. The paths in question are metalled surfaces which, under the Ted Mason agreement, are repaired and made safe by HCC Highways as and when requested by the Area Access Team. The sea defence structures are considered secondary, and therefore not usually included in the Access Team’s work inspection/maintenance regimes. However the HCC Countryside Team have a Path Partnership Fund available for local groups or charities to apply for access-based works, which may fit the description of the works needing to be carried out.
There are no known utilities protected by these sea defences.
Chichester Harbour Conservancy (CHC)
The condition of 80% of the SSSI in Chichester Harbour was recently downgraded to ‘unfavourable declining’ condition by Natural England due in part to the loss of 58% of the Harbour’s saltmarsh since 1946. This is primarily driven by coastal squeeze with sea defences preventing saltmarsh moving landward in response to rising sea levels and limiting the sediment supply that enables them to keep pace with it.
CHC are keen to work with others to maintain the coastal access in the Langstone area and would look to source funds to re-route the footpath. Where the protection of houses, or important infrastructure is not directly involved it is better for the health of the Harbour environment to allow natural processes to resume.
Langstone Coastal Defence Scheme
A Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Scheme is currently being developed by Coastal Partners at Langstone to reduce the flood and erosion risk to the community, important heritage assets and the A3023. The aim is to begin construction after April 2023, subject to securing sufficient funding to close the current funding gap to make the scheme affordable.
Following extensive option, environmental and economic appraisal, replacement of the defences fronting the Mill Pond were deemed not financially viable and therefore are not part of the proposed scheme at Langstone. This is due to the low level of flood risk to property along this frontage, the low likelihood of securing Defra Grant in Aid funding to meet the extensive costs of new defences here, and the large proportion of private or unknown ownership. Further information can be found here.
It is noted that the existing defences within the scheme area are themselves of a similar poor condition to those at the Mill Pond and will also be prone to damage and deterioration until scheme construction can begin. These defences are also of unknown ownership and there is no agreed approach or funding to enable short term repairs, should they be required here.
Coastal Partners will continue to engage closely with all interested parties and other key stakeholders. If sea defence repair works are not undertaken, the coastal defences may fail, leading to closure and diversion of the footpaths.