Southsea Coastal Scheme’s Public Consultatio...

Southsea Coastal Scheme’s Public Consultation

Many of you will hopefully be aware of the Southsea Coastal Scheme. Paul, Tristan and I are probably like many of you, aware that something is happening but not quite sure what exactly is being proposed. So the three of us decided to take ourselves to their consultation events at the Aspex Gallery in Gunwharf Quays.

I’ll openly admit that I was impressed with their presentation and explanation of the project. When the news first broke that a huge sum of money was to be spent on coastal defences, many questioned whether these funds could be better spent elsewhere. Given that public services continue to be underfunded this would be an understandable point of view. However, the grant was mostly coming from the central government and if the grant wasn’t being used by Portsmouth then it would be sent to shore up sea defences elsewhere in the UK.

Portsmouth City Council staff engage with the visitors to the Southsea Coastal Scheme Consultation Event at Aspex.
Portsmouth City Council staff engage with the visitors to the Southsea Coastal Scheme Consultation Event at Aspex.
Portsmouth City Council staff engage with the visitors to the Southsea Coastal Scheme Consultation Event at Aspex.

The seafront has taken a battering during some heavy storms in the past few years. We all remember the flooding of Southsea Rock Gardens and the galaxy of starfish that were swept onto the beach. Yes, that’s right, a group of starfish is a referred to as a galaxy. The current defences are reaching the end of their lifespan, with parts of the structure dating as far back as World War II.

I think we all appreciate that it’s vitally important that we adapt our coastline to reduce flood risks in the future. If improvements are not undertaken the current defences will continue to deteriorate with an increased risk to property and lives. Rising sea levels and the increase in extreme weather events predicted over the next 100 years will continue to put Southsea’s coastal defences under increasing pressure. The scheme is not just looking at keeping the immediate seafront safe, but also areas further inland which you might not expect to be at risk. In 1821, a severe storm caused the sea to overtop the beach between Southsea Castle and Lumps Fort. The water reached as far as Marmion Road, which is nearly half a mile inland. Granted an event like this is rare but not beyond the realms of possibility.

The Southsea Coastal Scheme Consultation Event at Aspex.

The project has split the seafront into three areas, western, central and eastern. The western area has provided significant challenges and design constraints due to the number of important historical structures. The scheme continues to work closely with Historic England to come up with a design proposal that is acceptable. The proposal provides the level of flood protection required and replaces the existing failing defences.

Southsea Costal Scheme's plans for Long Curtain Moat

Long Curtain Moat

There have been some interesting options raised with regards to the promenade between Clarence Pier and the D-Day Museum. There are two options, to fully pedestrianise the promenade, or retain vehicle access and seafront parking using a one-way system. A dedicated cycle path will also be retained. There are many benefits of fully pedestrianising the route but I cannot imagine that is going to be popular with visitors from outside of Southsea who aren’t able to walk or cycle to it. Making the road slightly smaller and having a one-way system seems like a fair and reasonable compromise.

Have your say on the plans by completing a short survey online.

Southsea Costal Scheme's proposal for Southsea Common's Pedestrianised Option

Pedestrianised option

Southsea Costal Scheme's proposal for Southsea Common's one way road Option

One way road system with parking

The area by the Bandstand and Southsea Castle have also involved Heritage England in the design process. Based on what I have seen, the raising of the ground and the rock revetment shouldn’t impact the appearance of that area as far as I am concerned. The area behind the Pyramids has borne the brunt of storms in recent years and in my opinion, the proposed improvement of raising the height of the promenade and introduction of a wall shouldn’t detract from that area.

One of my favourite sights on the promenade is the ornate street lamps along the seafront. I was informed today by Gareth Colwell, the Communications and Engagement Officer, that these will all be staying. He explained to me that every single one of them are listed structures. They will be removed during the construction process but returned afterwards to avoid damage.

There are two very interesting options for the surrounding areas of South Parade Pier, both require alterations to the promenade either side. The rip-rap rock placed on either side of the pier for will stretch for 100 metres and is required to reduce wave energy. This will not cut off the beach area but you will need to walk around the rocks to access it.

My prefered of the two options would be the lowering of the promenade which will create a new plaza space. This would allow for potential commercial units to be added in the future. This is something that I like the idea of, just look at the success of Southsea Beach Cafe. I would love to see more high-quality independent street food vendors or maybe a little Rum bar pitch up there.  The option of commercial units is not down to the scheme though, this would have to be implemented by Portsmouth City Council.

The alternative would be to maintain the current layout of a raised promenade but with the addition of a 1.2m high wall on the seaward side of the promenade.

Southsea Costal Scheme's plans for South Parade Pier keeping the promenade at a dropped level

South Parade Pier’s promenade if is lowered to road level

Southsea Costal Scheme's plans for South Parade Pier keeping the promenade at the existing level

South Parade Pier’s promenade if kept at the existing level

Southsea Coastal Scheme's artist imagination of the seafront by South Parade Pier.

Southsea Coastal Scheme’s 3D artist imagination of the seafront by South Parade Pier if the promenade is kept at the existing level.

The stretch between the pier, Canoe Lake and leading to Eastney Barracks present options which are very similar to the western area, the question again is whether it should be pedestrianised or vehicle access. As with the whole stretch, there are plans for more/easier disability access.

Based on what I have seen and heard I am quite positive about the schemes proposals. From browsing online, the majority of negative comments are from people concerned about the potential pedestrianisation. I share those concerns as that would likely lead to visitors parking in already busy nearby residential streets. The disruption caused by the construction isn’t ideal but it will be completed in phases which should hopefully minimise the impact to seafront’s visitors.

If you would like to know more and speak to the team involved then there is still time to make one of their public consultations.

🌊 St Jude’s Church: July 12th between 1pm-7pm
🌊 Cosham Community Centre:  July 16th between 3pm-7pm
🌊 Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club: July 17th between 1pm-7pm
🌊 Fratton Community Centre: 20 July 20th between 1pm-7pm

If you are unable to attend any of the events and you would like to know more then all of the consultation materials are available on their website which is linked below. I have only briefly touched on the main talking points so I would encourage you to check it out for yourself. The team are keen to hear from the public, especially 16 to 40 year olds who appear to be underrepresented at the moment. Have your voice heard by completing the survey which is available here. The deadline for responses is August 5th.


  1. Eamonn

    12 July

    Fully in favour of the work taking place. With as many diverse additions as possible. One way traffic and parking is a reasonable compromise.

  2. Celia Clark

    15 July

    We do not share your optimism about the proposals to remodel Southsea seafront in the face of rising sea levels by the East Solent Coastal Partnership – funded by the Environment Agency to the tune of £62 million. Despite our two petitions – on Change.org and the city council website asking for a choice of designs and public involvement in the design process, we have waited since last October when we were last shown a few details – to finally get sight of what is proposed, which looks close to being set in concrete1

    In the Southsea Seafront Campaign’s view these designs are not good enough for a major waterfront city – and need considerably more work to make them worthy of our precious seafront – currently being enjoyed by hundreds of people.

    ESCP’s design is based on “Holding the Line”, a strategy which was adopted in 2014, but we were only shown this level of greater detail – compared with the basic sketches shown to the public last October – on July 4 – and we have until August 6 to comment – via a very narrow and restrictive questionnaire on the website above. Hundreds of people are responding – many for the first time.

    In July last year an alternative design based on research in the university of Portsmouth School of Architecture and Dutch expertise was launched in an exhibition in Portsmouth Cathedral. You can see it in the Change.org petition “Give Residents a better choice of flood defence proposals for Southsea seafront’ and at http://www.portsmouthisland.uk/southsea-common-s-sea-defences.html. Despite some of the same engineers being involved in both projects, this well researched and presented design which advocated soft engineering rather than hard concrete ramparts and steps has been ignored – and vilified – as ‘a couple of students’ work’ ‘based on sand’…. Yet the current proposals have not apparently been supported by research, data or real learning from experience in responses to rising sea levels and storm surges by other major seafront cities.

    Nearly 4,000 people, including at least 1500 locals, signed our petition launched last autumn asking for a choice of designs, but the city council rejected it in February this year – because only postcodes and not full addresses were included. We started another petition on the council website – and collected many names and addresses via a written version – but the council’s website is difficult to access. Both expressions of local requests for public involvement in the design were ignored – until now, when it is almost too late, because the designs look set in concrete.

    Southsea Seafront Campaign’s Facebook page has details of developments over this year. We do not know why the public involvement has been delayed for so long, but a change of political control in the city council in May has resulted in the current ‘Consultation’.

    In response, the Southsea Seafront Campaign has requested answers to these questions from the Leader of Portsmouth City Council: Gerald Vernon Jackson:

    *The design is essentially the same ‘Hold the Line’ design adopted in 2014 – with more perspectives. What have the designers been doing in the last four years??

    *The short timescale left – to get planning permission by January 2019 or, so we are being told, lose the Environment Agency funding – severely limits local people’s chance to respond to and suggest improvements to this most complex development ever proposed to the seafront.

    *The overhead viewpoint: ‘the seagull’s view’ – makes it very difficult to understand the proposals e.g. the height of walls and their effect on sea views. People need eye-level perspectives to understand the new structures and how views will be affected.

    *Detailed public workshops are now needed for each site along the seafront, particularly Southsea Common’s historic landscape and historic buildings such as Long Curtain Moat, Southsea Castle, Lumps Fort, Eastney Forts East and West and Fort Cumberland (currently excluded) – where local people and conservation interests can shape the defences in detail. Many more detailed drawings, sections and perspectives are needed – if this process is to succeed in producing acceptable and well designed defences. This request is backed by the Old Portsmouth Neighbourhood Forum and the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust.

    *To provide the elegant ecologically sound design that Portsmouth deserves as a major seafront city with a large tourist industry, architects and landscape designers experienced in sea defence design are now clearly essential to transform the engineers’ basic walls, ramps and slopes. Southsea – as a seaside resort – deserves sea defences that are beautiful and ecologically rich. We ask that a really world-beating mix of gains for biodiversity, public space and outdoor recreation be achieved using firms with the vision to do so, and who are willing and able to work with the public. There are local companies capable of delivering this.

    *What guarantees are there that the concrete walls proposed will last for 100 years, when most concrete is only designed to last 50 years?

    *Why has the concrete steps and shingle design – a key feature of the proposals – not yet been subjected to physical tests, to determine whether the shingle will remain stable on top of the concrete? The shingle’s movement is being monitored, so data is available – but there are many cases around the world where beach material has disappeared, once concrete walls are put in. ‘Beach management’ – putting back sand or shingle the sea has moved – would be an endless – and expensive – task. We will not be able to get in and out of the sea via the concrete steps at high tide. There has already been a failure of the new concrete sea wall near the Mountbatten Centre….

    *The exhibition and leaflets lack any detail about what will happen to seafront businesses e.g. Mozarella Joe’s, Roxebys, the Hovercraft, South Beach cafe. How can a ‘Business Case’ have been made to the Environment Agency without consulting local businesses – until recently? Where is the new location for Southsea Rowing Club? All the seafront businesses, large and small – should be asked to form a group to represent their interests and work out what designs would have the least effect – and even enhance – their business. A worrying example is losing a hundred metre stretch of beach either side of South Parade Pier – the most popular section of the beach.

    *Dedicated cycleways are a good idea – but there are NO cyclists in any of the illustrations! With this is mind, we ask how serious this proposal is.

    *As the seafront road is a major tourist route as well as the shortest way to get from A to B, have the various one-way or pedestrianisation proposals been measured for their effect on traffic movement or the tourist industry? Are there any financial resources to do that? The various one-way proposals or road closures are what most local people are responding to.

    *We understand that something in the order of £5m has been spent producing this design, and we request, in the interests of transparency, how much money has been spent on these proposals to date, and on what, and with a full breakdown given of this expenditure over the last 12 months.

    Light needs to be shed on how this secretive process came to produce these crude slopes and ramps. Much more design work is needed to transform them into the beautiful enjoyable seafront thousands are currently enjoying this hot Sunday afternoon!


    Celia Clark
    Southsea Seafront Campaign
    8 Florence Road
    Southsea PO5 2NE
    02392 732912

  3. Pamela

    18 July

    Thank you to Strong Island for producing this article.

    I completely agree with Celia.

    Expensive brochures and displays have been compiled but few of the graphics are giving an accurate impression of what our shoreline and sea views will really look like after the walls, bunds, gates, steps, groynes, etc, have been put in place. From very few places at street level will we be able to see the sea or the Isle of Wight; and looking inland from the shore, for most of the beach, all we will see is a wall.

    And anyway … walls as high as you like can be built but unless there is one around the whole of Portsea Island, if the predictions are accurate, there would still be flooding where no defences are planned. Or are they? Can you imagine a wall at the shoreline around the Hayling Ferry area? If that isn’t deemed necessary because the impact of flooding would be reduced by the defences along the seafront, then why was it necessary to build higher defences along the Eastern Road (removing a great and diverse foraging area, by the way) and at Tipner Lake. The money spent on the latter seems particularly ludicrous because the sea there would have to come all the way past Old Portsmouth (where the current defence gates won’t be high enough if the flood predictions are accurate), the Dockyard and the M275. Any flooding will have taken out areas in Gosport, Portchester, Port Solent and North Harbour before it reaches Tipner.

    We all need to think very long and hard about what is being proposed. Yes, we need to try to protect the 4,114 residential properties, the 704 commercial properties, the 74 listed structures, the three scheduled monuments and the four critical access routes that we are told at are risk, but at what cost to our unique and beautiful shoreline and existing sea views?

    Some quotes from the brochure for those who haven’t seen it:

    “Although currently there are no funds for anything beyond the core sea defence proposal the scheme’s objectives are to stimulate further development in Southsea and to unlock opportunities for other improvements and regeneration in the area.”

    “Once the designs have been completed, we will apply for further grants from various sources to build the new sea defences.”

    So it seems there are no funds in place yet for any construction.

    “Recovering from a major flood in Southsea could cost up to £950 million.”

    I wonder how much the proposed defences will actually cost, how long they will really take to build and who will finally pay, bearing in mind that this design and consultation cost £5.9 million; and the Spinnaker tower cost £35.6 million 13 years ago and nearly six years late.

    There are alternatives which have been ruled out but with little detail in the brochure. Reasons such as: not cost effective; not supporting economic stability; or could be used with other options, do not give me enough information on which to base my decision. However, I have completed the survey because we all should.


  4. This is an important scheme and we agree with it in principle. It must take into account access to beaches, parks and views for visitors (whom the city welcomes) – likely to be in greater demand as climate changes continue. A pedestrian esplanade must be retained, at a suitable level, and CYCLE LANES should be a PRIORITY. (Portsmouth is very flat and therefore should be made as cycle-friendly as possible. Vehicular access although desirable is not essential (but could be one-way) if sufficient parking is provided nearby, with close access for disabled visitors. We welcome the Portsmouth City Council’s positive approach to the scheme and the programme of public consultations. Financial provision from central government, and/or the European Community, is essential.
    Cynthia & Patrick Whittle, Drayton

  5. Alan

    4 August

    Making any part of the Sea Front road one way or pedestrianization will kill the the sea front. Look at the stupid cycle path at the Eastern Front, a nightmare and dangerous to cars, cyclist and pedestrians. Portsmouth is an Island, all ready over crowded and congested. Restricting sea front access will impact upon all side roads in the area. It will also create a parking pay zone along Eastern Parade and side roads.
    The Sea Front must be kept open, in both directions from the East to the West for all.

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