A NEW £5m sea defence wall in South Tyneside “proved its worth” when it withstood the highest tidal surge in half a century last month.
The Littlehaven Seawall Project in South Shields, funded by South Tyneside Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water, is nearing completion.
It was designed to prevent regular flooding to the promenade and the car parks behind it.
It has emerged that an unprecedented tidal surge on December 5 last year was the new wall’s first test – and it did its job to perfection.
Coun Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Councuil’s lead member for area management and community safety, is convinced that, without it, the seafront car parks would have flooded.
She said: “We are very much aware of the impact of flooding on people’s lives, and the extreme weather and high tides which hit our coastal and riverside areas last month underlines the importance of the work we are undertaking.
“This includes realigning and improving the sea defences to provide vital protection against coastal erosion and floods at Littlehaven beach.
“The £5m project is almost complete, and the new seawall certainly proved its worth when it withstood what was the highest tidal surge the borough had seen since 1953.
“The previous flood defences were over a century old in places, which left the seafront open to the elements. I’ve no doubt that had the new seawall not have been in place during December’s storms, the seafront car parks would have been completely flooded and out of use, as they had been many times in the past after this kind of weather.”
The project includes widening the existing beach area by 50 metres and creating a new 7.5 metre-wide promenade with lighting, enabling visitors to enjoy the area into the evening for most of the year.
The scheme replaces a structure that was no longer providing adequate protection against wave impact.
The new wall is also designed to take account of the latest projections for the impact of climate change, and has used materials recycled from the old flood defences as far as possible.
Members of the council’s place select committee were informed of a raft of measures launched to tackle flooding in the borough.
But the committee heard claims of “flood favouritism” from two residents in the public gallery.
They attacked a “lack of action” over flood-hit homes on the Fellgate estate in Jarrow, compared to work carried out to tackle the issue at Cleadon Leas.
Members were informed that detailed surveys needed to be carried out before any flood action schemes went ahead.