THE £1.5m cost of emergency work to repair a section of failed sea wall at Milford has escalated by a further £325,000 as recent storms and erosion caused more damage.
Emergency work to safeguard a 180-metre section of sea wall near Paddy’s Gap was launched by New Forest District Council in August following a consultants’ report which warned that around 50 properties, including the Grade II listed White House, were at “imminent risk” this winter.
A £600,000 contribution from the Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee was confirmed in September towards the urgent work already under way. NFDC is currently working on a bid to the Environment Agency for up to £1.2m to offset the cost of the project.
However, NFDC has now revealed that project costs have escalated by £325,000 after storm damage and bad weather led a further 38-metre section of the sea wall to fail, resulting in the erosion of a seven-metre section of cliffs.
In a statement today (13th October), the authority announced it has put forward a further £325,000 and set aside an additional £300,000 contingency fund for the project.
Cllr Alison Hoare, NFDC cabinet member for environment, said: “Without additional funding at this stage the sea defences are at imminent risk. We are doing what we can to protect the coastline at Milford even though we do not have a statutory duty to do so or to fund.
“We continue to work with the Environment Agency to explore all funding options.
“Although there is always a risk that any funding application may be turned down, we are quietly confident that by underwriting this project now we will be able to complete the essential urgent works and offset our spending though the various grant process before the end of this financial year.”
Further cracking and movement has been identified in the sea wall towards the White House and the beach level has lowered further, requiring even more rock for the barrier construction.
Council contractors also found the access road to the site has eroded and needs repair. Following changes to the seabed, an additional specialist vehicle will now be needed to enable the barge to deliver rock to the beach.
Costs have increased further because bad weather has meant rocks had to be delivered by road rather than sea.
If the council is unsuccessful in its funding application to Environment Agency, the cost to NFDC could run to £1.5m. However, the council has pledged to maximise all opportunities for third party funding to reduce its own costs.
Cllr Hoare said: “We have been working with the Environment Agency to seek potential funding options and understand feasibility of works to remedy the seawall failure in Milford.
“The council agreed to underwrite urgent works to the value of £1.5m with an expectation that the majority of the costs will be recouped through funding applications to the Environment Agency and Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.”
She concluded: “Considering the additional costs identified, added contingencies and allowing for the approved SRFCC funding and anticipated EA funding, council spending on the project is expected to total £400,000.”
NFDC had initially been reluctant to take on the project claiming it had no legal responsibility as it did not own the land concerned.
However, the authority subsequently agreed to underwrite the £1.5m cost of the first phase of urgent repair work in the hope that money could be recouped via grants from the Environment Agency and the Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.