Concerns raised over lifespan of planned new Coast Road layout between South Shields and Whitburn
South Tyneside Council has previously revealed plans to move the A183 Coast Road further inland to extend its lifespan by around 50 years.
A study carried out in 2019 at ‘critical pinch points’ found parts of the route are likely to be compromised in the future, because of ongoing erosion of the cliff face and cave formations.
To protect the route for future generations, council chiefs are hoping to move the road further inland between the Lime Kilns and the caravan site, near Marsden Grotto.
This includes moving the road away from the clifftop at the tightest point and returning the existing road to grassland, with a formal planning application expected in the summer.
While welcoming the importance of the scheme, some have questioned how long the route could realistically be protected.
“A few years ago we had something similar, the coast road was being talked about being realigned and it was said then that the way it was, it would last 30 years,” said councillor Joyce Welsh, who represents the Whitburn and Marsden ward.
“That’s barely five years ago and you know what’s happening. It’s got here that [the project] would extend [the road’s] lifespan by approximately 50 years.
“Well forgive me but I have lived in this area, I have swum in the sea and climbed the cliff, I have done all sorts, and it won’t last fifty years.
“I think we need to look at that fifty years again, I think we need to look at perhaps 30 [years] but maybe not even that.
“It has me concerned when it’s just 50 years because we have got a quarry on the other side which is pretty much knocking on the door of the realignment as well.”
Cllr Welsh was speaking at a East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum (CAF) on Thursday, February 11, following a presentation from the council’s project manager, Ian Guard.
Mr Guard admitted there was a risk coastal erosion could “accelerate” and said that the 50-year estimate could be queried with the council’s coastal team.
Councillors also heard that if there were major issues with the coast road in future, an emergency management plan would come into force.
In response to questions about the potential impact of the new road on the historic Lime Kilns, officers said the scheduled monument would form a key part of an environmental impact assessment.
Meanwhile, councillor Neil Maxwell said the proposed ‘banana shape’ of the new road alignment, combined with a lack of street lighting, could create a road safety risk.
Officers said this would be taken into account as the scheme progresses.
The affected stretch of coast road falls within the catchment area of the East Shields and Whitburn CAF and is a regular topic of debate.
Measures have already been taken in relation to the coastal footpath and this has now been ‘rolled back’ to a safe location away from the cliff edge in conjunction with the landowner, the National Trust.
Following a recent partial cliff collapse at Marsden Bay, the issue of the coast road and its future has been brought into sharper focus.
”Cllr Welsh is right, coastal erosion is something happening,” said councillor Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council and representative for Whitburn and Marsden.
“We saw the cliff face just a couple of weeks ago crumble just along at Marsden Bay.
“I welcome the report and totally take on board and agree with Cllr Maxwell with regard to street lighting.
“If this is going to be looked at on a huge scale by what we’re looking at now, I would definitely recommend that we look at the option of some street lighting along that coastal road.”
She added: “I, like everybody, drive along it quite regularly and it isn’t the best and especially with the road being on that ‘banana curve’ that has already been discussed.
“I welcome the report and thank you to the officers for getting this moving as quickly as they possibly have done.”
Subject to planning approval and the development of a detailed design, the project is likely to get under way in 2022.
In the meantime, the council is giving people the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the plans. The deadline for comments is Friday, February 26.
More information can be found at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/coastroad.
Alternatively, residents can contact the council’s Coast Road Team by telephone (0191) 427 7000 or email: [email protected]