Historic Spa wall needs restoring with care

Scarborough's historic Spa sea wall needs restoring
Scarborough's historic Spa sea wall needs restoring

In recent days the National Trust issued a report acknowledging that people were “passionate” about the coasts as a nation. Their coastal marine adviser said “The nightmare scenario for me would be to end up in 100 years with a coast rimmed in concrete”.

The change on the Marine Drive can hardly have gone unnoticed. Out - the character and history of the old curved sea wall and fishing for all from the iron railings. In - a stack of rock armour topped by a concrete rim! Gone the use of this unique promenade for period dramas.

Sorry - they need the old railings! That is why Whitby is jealously guarding its historic piers against the use of rock armour. As we have pointed out to them, other engineering solutions are available, as they were for the Marine Drive, which avoid damaging historic and tourist appeal.

Moving to the Spa proposals, these have now rightly been primarily focused on cliff stability rather than sea defence although it is accepted that the sea walls require some urgent repair attention in places. The public statements issued four years ago, apparently attributed to advice from Halcrow, the leading engineering consultants, that stabilisation of the cliffs would require a massive concrete armoured sea defence extending some 40 metres seaward of the existing Spa sea wall or a similar size rock armour revetment, did do the town a service by raising enough anger and amazement amongst those who could not see how such proposals were related to the problem - there being no direct physical link between cliffs and beach - whilst ruining both scenery and beach.

Fortunately the Sons still had enough money in the pot to instruct Dr Bruce Denness BSc (Eng) MSc PhD Eng MICE FGS who has worked on landslip problems round the world for the UK and foreign government departments. To use his words - Halcrow’s preferred schemes “appear to be grossly out of keeping with the minimal requirement for stabilisation of the current sea wall, the feasibility of its ongoing occasional maintenance, the historical, architectural and environmental context of the wall, of the current availability of resources to engage in such a project at a time of national economic restraint.” An opinion that the funds providing Environment Agency would find difficult to ignore.

Now the National Trust have spoken out against concrete rimming, let us hope that the old stone sea wall at the Spa is restored in matching stone where needed as it is part of a picture of great scenic beauty and unique historic importance to the town - not just the frame - and leave open the door to the publicity value of period dramas there. Indeed this very place, ending at the Clock Cafe was included in a walk recently judged to be the most romantic in the UK. As Dr Denness advised - the wall is capable of sympathetic repair.

Few want to set eyes on another concrete catastrophe on a prime site such as that which replaced that architectural gem - the Pavilion Hotel.

Freddie Drabble,

Sons of Neptune,

Scalby Road, Scarborough