Work starts on £1.5m emergency sea defences to save homes

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Milford sea wall
Work has started on the cliffs at Milford (Photo: Graeme Blackwood)

EMERGENCY work started on repairing the damaged Milford sea wall amid raging seas and Storm Francis to protect homes at “imminent risk”.

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Contractor Earlcoate Construction, based in Fordingbridge, has begun building an access route to the affected area and installed portable buildings to house workers undertaking the first phase of a £1.5m project.

It will revitalise a failed 180-metre section of the wall to the west of the Grade-II listed White House. Equipment has been moved to the car park at Paddy’s Gap and the first of the smaller sets of rocks delivered to help create the access route.

The project is anticipated to start fully on 5th September and will involve the delivery of 9,000 tonnes of Larvik rock from Norway.

New Forest District Council said about 1,600 tonnes of rock would enable the necessary land-based machinery to access the site.

A spokesperson said: “Vessels have been secured for the main rock delivery, which will be Larvik rock from Norway, expected to be in two loads of approximately 5,000 tonnes and 4,000 tonnes.

“Once in the area the vessel will be moored off the Isle of Wight in sheltered waters that will enable transfer of rock to a smaller barge for delivery to site.

“This work will, of course, need to be undertaken in good weather conditions, to enable transfer from the barge to the beach.”

It added: “We are continuing to refine the design and by the very nature of urgent works that will be some elements that cannot be completely designed until on site.

“This is a very dynamic site with changes to continue to happen on a daily basis to the seawall and I have no doubt that once on site there will be a need to change certain elements.”

As reported in the A&T, the works have been put into gear after a report by NFDC contractor Jacobs highlighted the failure of a 270-metre section of the concrete protection.

Should nothing be done, the report went on, around 50 properties – including the White House – were at “imminent risk” this winter. It suggested stabilising the wall, compensating for the loss of beach material, and installing protective boulders.

NFDC was initially reluctant to intervene because it claimed it did not own the land concerned and had no legal responsibility. However, it has since committed to underwriting the cost of the initial scheme to install an 8,500-tonne rock structure to protect up to 180 metres of the wall.

Many seafront residents remain upset as they say another 90-metre section is more badly damaged than the area in the first phase. They want a meeting with local councillors and engineers.

They have also started a Facebook group called Save Milford from the Sea and want to know how a second, more expensive phase of the project will be funded.

One member wrote: “I cannot believe that they still aren’t yet also going to protect the bit that’s on its knees.

“The winter storms will be much worse. We will soon lose our (much-loved) coastal path here at this rate.”

However, New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne said he has faith in NFDC overseeing the project and has been corresponding with the council and government ministers on behalf of constituents.

He said: “The engineering solution is not a matter where I have experience or expertise but I have confidence in the district council.”

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