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With the winter behind us, work can now restart on the three-year Lydd Ranges Sea Defences scheme on the Romney Marsh coastline. One of our Associates, James Cole based at our Canterbury office, gives us an update on the scheme and shares some of the plans to protect more than 14,500 homes, 700 businesses and nationally significantly infrastructure from flooding.

The sea defences scheme, a complex project, began in May 2021 as part of the Folkestone to Cliff End Strategy (FoCES) involving around 8.2km of beach frontage. The project is being completed by the Environment Agency to improve the existing frontage to maintain sea defences taking into consideration long-term predictions for climate change with a 100-year strategy for protecting the coastline.

The scheme has been planned for several years, but a breach of the flood defences in winter 2019 demonstrated just how critical the new infrastructure is. The scheme will protect the coast and 600 houses, and involves the creation of 30 new groynes, a new access/flood wall as well as the recharge of shingle on the beach this year and next to protect the area.

We have been working with the Environment Agency for several years and are heavily involved in the scheme. Our role involves liaising with the various landowners and ensuring that the relevant permissions are in place so that works can take place at the correct times. Our work has had environmental constraints due to the very special new tenants we have on site, the avocet, a protected wading bird with a breeding season during the winter. As such, the beach is a European protected RAMSAR site, as well as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and National Nature Reserve which means we must wait until the breeding season is over.

This project really stands out because of its location and its landowners. One of the main landowners involved is the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which uses the beach as a live firing range, with an exclusion zone 2.5 miles out to sea. The MoD is continuing to conduct live firing operations around the works which certainly keeps things interesting!

Other parties we are working with are the Crown, which owns the foreshore, and the Maritime Management Organisation (MMO) due to several deliveries being made by boat – which this year includes 300,000 tonnes of shingle. We also work closely with EDF, which owns Dungeness Power Station based at one side of the site, as well as local businesses, the local community, and councils, along with a specialist consultant to liaise with fishermen in the area. It’s a project which involves so many different elements which although challenging at times, is also exciting and ensures no two days are the same!

We are hoping that the new groynes will be completed in the summer with the shingle being delivered early August. This delivery will involve a dredger having a temporary mooring and a temporary pipeline to pump shingle onto the beach. The plan is for the scheme to be finally completed in 2023.

It’s the biggest coastal defence project that we have been involved with to date and it is fantastic to be working towards a result which will secure people’s homes and businesses and protect the military range for years to come.

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