WORRIED villagers have demanded to know when the rest of Milford’s sea defences will be repaired after the final rock was placed to finish the first stage of an emergency upgrade.
Costing £1.8m, the project was started by New Forest District Council last August to protect seafront properties from erosion and storms, including the Grade II listed White House.
It was prompted by a consultant’s report that warned a 270-metre section was failing and around 50 properties were at “imminent risk” this winter.
NFDC is doing the work in phases, first addressing a 180-metre section of the wall near Paddy’s Gap. Originally slated to cost £1.5m, that figure escalated to £1.8m after storm damage.
The first part involved boosting the entire 180-metre section with a 9,000-tonne rock revetment made from extra strong Norwegian granite, and protecting that with a smaller one of 3,000 tonnes following further storm damage to the seawall last autumn.
Steel sheets and girders have reinforced the failing seawall and repairs made to timber groynes on the beach to reduce the loss of shingle.
Concerns remain among members of the Save Milford from the Sea group, however, which includes owners of Milford seafront homes.
It claimed on Facebook that by spending 10% more, NFDC could have protected 270 metres of the seafront, and questioned whether enough rock had been used at the western end to give full protection.
It said: “This section has yet to be tested by rough seas and a failure under storm conditions could lead to further cliff erosion and may even outflank the newly completed revetment.
“Local residents are also very concerned about how long it will take to finish the job, including full protection of the last 40 metres, given that the NFDC and the Environmental Agency have advised that phases 2 and 3 of the project could take up to five years to complete.”
NFDC’s cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Alison Hoare, said: “We have taken the urgent action needed to protect against further damage to this area that would undoubtedly have come about this winter, even though we do not have a statutory duty to do so or to fund.”
The project was a massive logistical operation, as the contractor – Fordingbridge-based Earlcoate Construction and Plant Hire Ltd – had to construct an access road requiring over 3,000 tonnes of Portland rock, which was also used to boost the defences.
There were also 16 barge deliveries by sea putting 6,500 tonnes of rock on the beach.
Before it can embark on phase 2, the council is waiting on a decision on over £250,000 of grant funding from the Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.
If secured, NFDC will appoint a consultant and identify other finance streams.