Millions needed to save historic castle from falling into the sea

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An areal view of Hurst Castle
Sections of Hurst Castle’s beach have been cordoned off for public safety

MILLIONS of pounds of repairs are needed to prevent Hurst Castle from falling into the sea as coastal erosion continues to threaten the stability of the historic building.

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English Heritage, which owns the Scheduled Monument near Milford has cordoned off section of the beach because of the precarious state of the existing timber sea defences.

English Heritage head of estates David Hedges told the A&T: “Hurst Castle’s extremely exposed location poses considerable conservation challenges.

“Repair work to the sea defences will begin shortly and we are in the process of planning the best approach for conservation work to the castle itself.

“Being so close to the sea means the castle will always be vulnerable and climate change will present an increasing challenge for its conservation, but as a charity we are working hard to develop a long-term solution.”

The spit that stretches from Milford towards the Isle of Wight has been breached by the sea many times since 1954.

In 1989 a considerable amount of money was spent on stabilising it, and further costly defence repairs were needed when it was battered by winter storms in 2013 and 2014.

Heritage group the Solent Protection Society (SPS) were alerted to the situation by the Keyhaven Forum residents’ association after members noticed areas of the castle had been cordoned off with signs warning of danger from falling stones.

SPS officers, accompanied by experts in the field, investigated and found part of the castle’s outer walls were being undercut by the tide despite the presence of various sea defences.

SPS chairman David Sizer thought it likely that in the first instance £2m-£3m worth of shale would be used to replace the loss.

He said: “The current situation is very serious because 80-100 metres of shoreline on the south western side of the castle are badly eroded and some parts where the shale has been washed away, now slope steeply down to the sea, a difference of 23 feet in height.

“Parts of the castle previously underpinned by the shale are now left exposed and unsupported.

“If nothing is done, Hurst Castle will in time be submerged into the sea, and remedial work, difficult, costly and time consuming, is quite urgent and necessary. Otherwise the situation will deteriorate and create more problems later on.

“English Heritage is not only taking the matter very seriously but has also set aside sums for the remedial work, and the staff told us that two consultants are shortlisted and one would be appointed.”

Mr Sizer emphasised the importance of the role of the public and members of SPS. “Local and government authorities punch well above our weight, but they are more likely to listen to us than individual members of the public,” he said.

“The society was founded over 50 years ago and it takes an active and constructive role in safeguarding the natural beauty and amenities of the Solent area, particularly its harbours.

“Without being informed by the residents from Keyhaven about the issues at Hurst Castle, we would not have known and been able to play our part in protecting it by making sure those responsible take action.

“The greater our membership, the greater our voice with these organisations. If members get involved and are proactive in letting us know their opinions and informing us of any developments they become aware of, we can help to protect the uniqueness of the Solent for future generations.”

For more information about the SPS or to become a member, visit www.solentprotection.org.

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