Holland Haven Sea Wall – Will Tendring District Council Let The Sea Destroy It?

I have been sent a copy of a letter Mike Badger, Engineering Services Manager at Tendring District Council, wrote to some beach hut owners at Holland Haven.

Mike writes

Following storms in April/May 2011 structural engineers advised the sea wall at Holland Haven was “marginally stable“.  The engineers also advised further erosion of the beach could result in sea wall becoming  UNSTABLE.

Further storms (since 2011) have caused more erosion and damaged the steps down to the beach.

Another inspection in late June 2012 revealed “irregularities along the promenade in the vicinity of the sea wall“.

As a result it has been decided to remove some steps and to place stainless steel railings along the sea wall edge of the promenade.

To me the most interesting thing about the letter is what is not said, a bit like Sherlock Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark in the night.  Where is the plan to defend and repair the sea wall? As far as I know the only way to defend the sea wall is to build proper groynes.  Properly designed and built groynes will allow an bank of dry sand to accumulate in front of the wall, protecting it from the sea.  This has happened at Seawick and where Butlins used to be.

[Update 14:45 5 Aug 2012]

This situation has been going on for 10 years or so.  Here is a report prepared by John Ryan of TDC in February 2007.  It notes a section of the sea wall by Queensway recently failed.  All of Holland sea wall was identified as having a low margin of stability in 2001. Oh and DEFRA wouldn’t approve funding.

There is no discussion of the reparing the groynes.  If the groynes are not repaired then the sea wall will continue to be eroded by the sea for ever.

It is crystal clear DEFRA/EA do not care if Holland falls into the sea.  And TDC have not had the ability and/or will to obtain funding for at least 10 years.

Moreover they do not understand the need to provided proper groynes.

[end update]

[update 18:20 11 Aug 2012]

If you have got time read the report of TDC cabinet on 14 March 2012.  It’s quite long, but if nothing else read the bottom of page 79 (24 in enclosed Royal Haskoning report) which says

A third, undesirable, approach might be to accept that defence of Clacton
cannot be taken forward. In this case the issue is one of having to adapt use and accept that Clacton will not be there in the future.

[end update]

I have been blogging about the state of Holland beach since meeting Councillor Joy Broderick in October 2011.  At the time I was campaigning against Environment Agencies plan to knock a hole in the sea wall close to where I live in Kirby-le-Soken.  EA call knocking holes in sea walls “Managed Realignment“. When EA maintain a sea wall they call this “Hold The Line“.  EA  claimed maintained the reason they wished to “Manage Realign” knock a hole in the sea wall at Devereux farm was to create saltmarsh.

No,  you may be thinking, there is no link between the sea wall at Holland Haven and EA and saltmarsh.  But I believe there is, a very simple, very common link

MONEY – or lack of it.

Tendring District Council is responsible for the groynes and sea wall south of Holland Haven.  EA is responsible for the stretch of sea wall north of Holland Have to the whalings at Frinton.

In order to repair the groynes and/or sea wall TDC require funding and EA would be a major source.  EA have told TDC there are no funds available.  Curious Felixstowe recently got funding to build some rock groynes, as did Southwold.

EA’s attitude to Holland and Clacton was revealed when they were quoted by Clacton and Frinton Gazette on 22 March 2012 (bottom of page 9, left hand column)

“…In this case the future issues is one of having to adapt and accept that Clacton will not be there in the future …”

[update 18:20 11 Aug 2012]

The Gazette and EA were quoting from the Royal Haskoning report contained within the minutes of TDC cabinet of 14 March 2012.

[end update]

EA are in the process of getting their second Shoreline Management Plan (SMP2) approved.  SMP2 details how EA plan to protect the coast of UK for next 100 years.  Intriguingly given EA is charged with flood defence, a lot of SMP2 deals with knocking down sea walls Managed Realignment.

Why would they want to do this?  Is it part of a cunning EU plan to destroy England hectare by hectare?

The reason seems to be money or lack of it.  Apparently sea walls are uneconomic, they cost to much to repair especially given the huge rise in sea level predicted by IPCC and DEFRA because of global warming.

So the best, simplest and most obvious thing to do is to knock sea walls down now.

Just in case.

Rising sea levels are also blamed for killing saltmarsh.  And UK has signed an EU treaty which requires UK to “manage saltmarsh”.  DEFRA have decided this means creating new saltmarsh by flooding farm land and have set a target for EA to create 100 ha of new  saltmarsh by flooding farmland each and every year.  40 ha/year are to be created in Anglian region.

IPCC predictions or projections are just the result of computer programs.  The claimed rise in temperature is not being observed.  Similarly there is no sign of any acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

The panic over saltmarsh seems to have been just that, as more recent surveys have found saltmarsh is growing back in UK as a whole, and in Essex where there was thought to be a loss of 45ha/year it is now reckoned to be 0.9ha/year.

If that wasn’t enough there are major errors in some of EA’s calculations.  Blunders with simple arithmetic which GCSE students should not make.  For example “A very bad way to calculate sea level rise“.  There is also a glaring error in the way the 45ha/year salt marsh figure was calculated which maybe I will post about later.

But there’s more.

Some of the land EA want to flood hosts rare species and are protected by RAMSAR and SPA treaties.  EA plans to relocate these sites  and this habitat relocation is the most expensive part of the plan.  Page iv of the EA document FD2017.TR claims over next 100 years it will cost

  • £510 million cash cost + £150 million to replace vulnerable fresh and brackish water sites (there is a note this might rise to £820 million + £240 million)
  • £500 million to recreate 4,400 ha of saltmarsh (or the deluxe version of £1billion for 8,800ha)

And justifies this as the cheaper option by claiming it would have cost £3,300 million to maintain the defenses of existing RAMSAR/SPA sites.  Do you believe EA’s claim.  Especially as this claim is just pulled out of the air and based on a huge sea level rise which in turn is based on IPCC’s projections of global warming (which have not materialised).

You didn’t think that was it did you?

DEFRA, EA and Natural England claim to be three separate bodies acting independently, even though they appear to act as one.  DEFRA sets a target, EA says we have to obey as DEFRA pay us.  EA says farmers don’t get compensation for having their land flooded, as far as they know.  Could that be because NE compensates farmers.  Here is a spreadsheet of Natural Englands HLS agrements (Higher Level Stewardship) as of April 2011.  There are just over 7500 rows and scanning by eye it seems about 1/2 have a number in the “Total Lifetime Cost” column.  Even so the sum of the numbers present is £782,958,456.62, so the total might be expected to be a bit more than £1.5billion.

Note not all the HLS agreements are necessarily due to Managed Realignment.

As an aside NE have other forms of stewardship agreement which mostly seem to involve paying farmers to stop people walking on their farms, especially around the edges of fields and worst of all with dogs.

Who elected these people?


Back to the spreadsheet of HLS agrements, row 6940 shows £300,451.20 will be paid to EAGLE, J W & F D for 27.01 ha.  This is the compensation for Devereux 1 or Rigdons breach.  Yet Joe Blackhouse of Horsey Island says he is going to graze lamb on the saltmarsh.  So you can get compensation (presumably for loss of use of farm land) and carry on farming.

Now it might seem a bit unfair having a bash at local farmers.  These are not who I am aiming at.  It is the unelected unaccountable quangos who spend our money, tax payers money, on some scheme they dream up which has no rational basis whilst leaving sea walls at places like Holland Haven unrepaired.

And it may not even be a cost saving.  EA’s estimate of maintaining existing sea walls at RAMSAR and SPA sites was £3.3billion.

But if we take the more expensive options from EAs figures and add in £1.5 of HLS agreements we get £3.56 billion (1.0 + 1.5 + 0.82 + 0.24)  not even a cost saving.

Not all the existing HLS agreements may be related to managed realignment, but remember the spreadsheet only shows existing agreements.  SMP2 covers the next 100 years with some managed realignment not scheduled till after 2055 or 2085, so the total cost of all HLS agreements may be many times (perhaps even ten times) what is shown in the existing spreadsheet.

For some reason some people living at Jaywick, Holland and Frinton were a bit upset the first drafts of SMP2 planned to flood Jaywick and knock down the sea wall between Holland Haven and the Whalings at Frinton.

Why would anyone want to do such a thing?

The SMP2 claimed knocking down the sea wall would “ease the pressure” on the sea wall at Holland-on-Sea.  I wonder if they have any evidence of this.  Anyway I’ve made an FOI request.

It seems to me there is another reason why flooding Jaywick and Holland Brook (along with Golf Club, Cricket Club and Tennis Club) would be attractive to EA.


We need a little detour while I explain a bit about saltmarsh.

There are two diagrams used by EA and NE to describe saltmarsh.  These have circulated around the world and even crop up in EU documents.

Incorrect Coastal Squeeze Diagram Type 1


Incorrect Coastal Squeeze Diagram Type 2


Both of these diagrams are wrong.  This is what saltmarsh looks like.


There are  three essential features of saltmarsh

  1. It is flat
  2. It rises with rising sea level
  3. It spends most of its time out of water, saltmarsh is about the level of spring high tides.  If salt marsh is submerged for extended periods it dies.

A correct saltmarsh diagram would look like this.


Many of the sea walls were created 1650 to 1700.  Sea levels have risen around 1.4mm/year.  Land has sunk around 1mm/year.  So over last 350 years saltmarsh will have risen nearly 1 meter.

This exposes the fallacy of “coastal squeeze” the idea rising sea levels are killing saltmarsh.  If sea levels have risen nearly 1 meter since sea walls were built how come there is any saltmarsh left?

It also highlights a fundamental problem with trying to recreate saltmarsh by flooding farmland.   If

  1. Farmland is about 1 meter below sea level
  2. Saltmarsh only lives if it is not covered by water except for spring high tides

what chance is there of ever creating saltmarsh?

If government scientists at DEFRA, EA and NE can get something as simple as  this so wrong, when all they have to do is go and look at the Backwaters , what else are they getting wrong?


Now after all that we’ve finally got to the point where I can suggest why Jaywick and Holland marshes would be attractive to anyone wanting to create saltmarsh.

The seawalls here were built much more recently, within 100 years.

Thus there is a much greater chance of actually creating saltmarsh.

Err, that’s it.

Do DEFRA/EA/NE care if Holland and Clacton fall in the sea?

No, they’ve got a target to meet and they aim to meet it.

Do DEFRA/EA/NE care if Jaywick is flooded, or Frinton  golf club.

I doubt it. They’ve got a target to meet.


Apparently the policy for the sea wall between Holland Haven and Frinton has been changed from

Managed Realignment


A combination of Hold The Line and Managed Realignment.

Sadly I’ve only got a small brain and I can’t understand how it is possible to simultaneously

  • knock a hole in a wall
  • not knock a hole in a wall

Any suggestion people in Holland and Frinton have been fobbed off with some weasel words is obviously totally false and without foundation.

As money is in such short supply in would be the easiest thing in the world to not maintain the wall properly and if or when it’s breached say

“Sorry, like to repair it but there are no funds.”

Why am I concerned about Holland Beach?

I have taken an interest in the state of the beach and sea wall from north of Clacton pier to Holland Haven since meeting Councillor Joy Broderick last year.  She asked if I would write about the state of the beach and sea wall and I have done so,

for example

Holland-On-Sea Beach then and now

Compares a view of the beach now with a few decades ago clearly showing how far the sand has fallen.

The Cost Of Not Maintaining Breakwaters At Holland-On-Sea

TDC has spent around £10million on coastal defense over the last 10 years, almost all of it at Holland.  The annual spend seems to be between £1million and  £2million.

Money Spent On Wooden Groynes At Holland Frinton and Walton

In contrast only around £40,000 has been spent at Holland repairing wooden groynes.

There have been no repairs since 2009/10.  Given the state of groynes it is hard to see there have been any effective repairs at all.

Repaired Groynes At Holland-On-Sea

Apparently the replacement boards were washed away on the first high tide.

The slot and grove method used at Holland and Clacton is far inferior to bolting on boards as is done at Frinton and Walton.  Given all beaches are now managed by TDC why continue with such a flawed system?

Groynes and Beaches At Walton Frinton and Holland-On-Sea

Just by pacing the length and separation of the groynes it is clear the groynes at Holland are half the length and further apart than the groynes at Frinton.  Also they are in a terrible state of repair.

Is it any wonder this is no beach.

Broken Groynes Mean Poor Beach At Holland Even At Low Tide

A particularly low tide on the 9 May 2012 highlighted the difference between

  • Walton and Clacton south of the pier, where there are good beaches.
  • And Holland and Clacton north of the pier, where there are very poor beaches.

It also made me realise that it is not just length and spacing of the groynes which controls the beach.  The height is crucially important too.

Richard Steward of the Blyth Estuary Group has been researching beaches, groynes and saltmarsh for many years.  He has summarised his research in his BEGCritique.  I particularly like the description of EA declaring the walls of River Blyth unsustainable, when asked to produce costings they didn’t as it was “unsustainable”!.

Richard has a rule of thumb that groynes need to be at least 1 meter higher than the level of  Mean High Water Spring tide for at least 5 meters from sea wall.

This is more or less the case with the groynes south of the pier.

In contrast the vertical posts (all that remains of groynes) by Flags cafe are completely submerged at high tide.  At Holland the tops of the posts are visible at high tide.  But there are no lateral boards.

It seems the groynes from north of the pier to Holland Haven were

  1. designed incorrectly
  2. built incorrectly
  3. have been allowed to fall into a state of disprepair


As far as I know the only way to have a beach and to protect the sea wall is to build proper groynes.   What plans does TDC have for doing this?  Or is TDC actually going to just watch as the seawall, then the cliff and finally houses fall into the sea?

Rock groynes have been built at Seawick, Felixstowe and Southwold so there is a known solution, it’s just a question of coming up with the money.

Richard Steward has made an estimate for cost of replacing groynes from pier to Holland Haven based on the cost and quantities of rock used Seawick, Felixstowe and Southwold.

My rough estimate for materials and rock placement for Groynes, Reefs and Fishtails to protect 5Km at Holland are:

1) Groynes 80 off @ 1.5Km3 rock = 120Km3 @ £120/m3 placed = £15million (beach recharge probably unnecessary). Total £15million.

2) Fishtails. 15 off @ 33Km3 rock = 500km3 @ £120/m3 placed = £60 million plus beach recharge 1Mm3 @ £24/m3 = £24million. Total £86million.

3) Reefs 13 off @ 20Km3 rock = 260Km3 @ £120/m3 placed = £30 million plus beach recharge 1Mm3 @ £24/m3 = £24million. Total £54million.

 Until proper groynes are built the sea will continue to erode the wall. TDC will have to continue to pay between £1million to £2million a year on repairing the sea wall at Holland.  Eventually the sea wall will collapse, then the cliff behind it, then the road and next houses.

The article in Clacton and Frinton Gazette on 22 March 2012 mentioned earlier was headlined

£50 million plan to save seafront

Who produced this estimate?  What are the details?  Could it be EA and TDC are pushing up the cost as a reason for delay.

Reefs and fishtails are many times more expensive than simple rock groynes.
It has been estimated £15million is required to build rock groynes from the pier to Holland Haven, only about 8 to 16 times the current annual spend.

I ask again is TDC really going to do nothing whilst the sea wall falls into the sea?

Because unless and until someone takes action the sea wall will fall into the sea.

So this has been a long ramble. To summarise.

The money TDC is spending on repairing the sea wall is being wasted as these repairs will never stop the sea eroding the wall.

EA will not fund groynes as they prefer to spend money on managed realignment, habitat relocation and creation.

TDC is clearly not prepared to fight for the money for groynes in the same way Felixstowe did.

If you care about the beach at Holland and Clacton enough to do something about it please do one or both of the following

If you live in Holland or Clacton and would be prepared to lead a campaign to have the groynes repaired to safe guard the sea wall and restore the beach there is an urgent need for someone to take on this role.


This entry was posted in Beaches, Breakwaters, EA, SMP and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

281,764 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Anti-Spam Quiz:

CommentLuv badge