Holland-on-Sea and Tendring Beaches 19 October 2012

Here Holland-on-Sea and Tendring Beaches September 2012 I posted about what had been happening over the summer since July when Mike Badger wrote to beach hut owners at Holland Haven to say steps were going to be removed as the stability of the wall had declined.

Mike’s letter prompted me to make 2 FOI requests to TDC, which were not properly answered, however Mike did offer the chance to have a meeting with himself and others from TDC as well as representatives from Mott MacDonald.

Mott MacDonald is an engineering firm who TDC have appointed to take forward the plan to repair and regenerate the beach and sea wall from the Clacton pier to Holland Haven.  Mott have recently finished a scheme to provide groynes at rock revetments at Felixstowe.

Anyhow Mott gave a presentation to TDC on Wednesday 17 October and 3 of them (sorry guys I didn’t make a note of your names) stayed on for a couple of hours to have a chat with me and Mike Badger and James Ennos of TDC.

This is a brief summary of my recollections of the meeting.

The first thing which struck me immediately was the energy, enthusiasm and confidence of everyone (especially Mike and James) that things were different now and the project would go ahead.  How they couldn’t say yet but it was obvious from their body language they believed somehow the project would be funded and delivered.

If Things Are Different  – What’s Changed?

In the past EA provided 100% of funding.  This had good and bad points.

The good was EA provided 100% of funding.

The bad was

  1. EA would only provide funding for emergency repairs, there were plans to properly repair the sea wall and groynes but DEFRA/EA would not fund this.
  2. As EA provided 100% of funding they had a large say in how the project was implemented.

Now EA will not provide 100% of the funding.

The bad part of this is EA will not provide 100% of the funding, so the rest has come from somewhere else.  As yet unidentified.

The good part of this is EA will not have such a large say in how the project should proceed, so there is now the possibility to look at a proper regeneration of the sea wall, groynes and beach.

A TDC cabinet in March 2012  considered a report from Royal Haskoning, another engineering firm with experience of beaches and groynes (and a contractor to EA).

Mott MacDonald have been appointed to take the project forward from an idea outlined on paper to implementation.  As well as cement, rocks and diggers this also includes finding sources of funding.

It seems Mott MacDonald are not restricted to slavishly following everything written in the March report, they’d be mad to do so as this is a commercial contract and it is strongly in their interest to make sure what they do works.  Especially as Mott and TDC are looking over the next 100 years.

I got the impression Royal Haskoning viewed Holland-on-Sea and especially Holland Haven as unimportant and the plan was to do nothing here for at least 15 years.

Mott MacDonald plan to start at Holland (perhaps because the wall has deteriorated from being marginally stable).

In summary what has changed is the days when TDC was restricted to emergency repairs are over.  TDC have appointed Mott MacDonald to regenerate Clacton and Holland beach and sea front, taking a strategic view over the next 100 years.

Oh and there’s one other a change which prove to be a change for the worse.  Apparently in the past EA had separate pots of funding for different types of project (e.g repairing sea walls, inland flooding etc).  Now everything has been put into one pot (or so I was told).  This means the Clacton/Holland sea wall/groynes project will be competing for funding against all those homes which have been built on flood planes.

Why Was I There?

Well the short answer is I’m not entirely sure.

Both Mott MacDonald and TDC were keen to tell me I had an overly simplistic view of how the sea, sand,  and groynes interact. Simply repairing the groynes would not work as there was not enough sediment.

Perhaps they are right, I have no training in “Coastal Processes”.  I have a PhD in physics, a BSc in maths.  Most of my career has been spent in computer programming usually with some maths or science involved.

All I have done is walked along the beach, taken photos and paced out the length and separation of groynes.

I am being to asked to believe the fact

  1. There is a good beach at Frinton, Walton, St Oysth and Clacton south of the pier.  In each of these locations the groynes are in a good state of repair.
  2. There is a very poor beach at Holland-on-Sea and Clacton north of the pier where the groynes are either non existent, lower than the sea level at high tide, or just in a very poor state.

is entirely coincidence.

And simply repairing the groynes would not work as there is not enough sediment.

I showed the following pictures which show when there is at least some groyne sand and shingle is trapped.


But otherwise not


I was told the sand might have been trapped by the groyne in the first photograph but the sea might wash it away again.

Perhaps that’s right – what do I know.

But when Mott MacDonald went on to say (as far as I could make out) the plan was to build new groynes and recharge the beach I was left with the feeling that

  1. this was almost identical to what I was saying and had been told wouldn’t work
  2. what is to stop the sea washing away the recharged sand?

 But Then Things Got Surreal

I said there were a lot of angry beach hut owners and as there was a project underway to rebuild the seawall and groynes wouldn’t it be a good idea to tell people?

Yes, there is plan to do a public consultation in January.

I pointed out Holland Residents Association and Clacton & Holland Beach Hut Association both have meetings this month and it would be a good idea if something could be presented to them.

Then I was told – “You can do that”.

All I can say is to be involuntarily appointed the unofficial spokesperson for TDC and Mott MacDonald has a surreal feeling to it.

Did TDC and Mott MacDonald Have Any Reason To Say I Was Wrong?

I mentioned above I was told my view of what happens on the beach are too simplistic.

Do TDC and/or Mott MacDonald have any evidence to support this claim?

Well TDC certainly seems to.  I was shown a number of photographs taken over the years which show the sand level rises and falls in different years, rather than constantly erode away.

I was also shown a report (well a very large ring binder and the front page) of a report prepared by Royal Haskoning and HR Wallingford, 2 firms which do a lot of work for EA.

What the report says I don’t know as I wasn’t shown it and as it’s several hundred pages long I certainly didn’t have the time to understand it.

It is worth remembering DEFRA and EA have large budgets and are the principal sources of income for firms like Royal Haskoning and HR Wallingford.  There is a very strong incentive to toe the official line with the implied threat that if anyone doesn’t they won’t get more work.

This also applies to scientific research, DEFRA and EA are a major source of research funding, so your research had better come up with what we want to hear or else.

It’s all very well being told a report or study finds something, but unless there is the opportunity to read and understand it, it is not possible to challenge what one is being told.

This is where FOI requests come in.

What Are FOI Requests And How Must Organisations Respond?

To start with the name is confusing, it would be easier to understand if the name was “Freedom of Documents”.

FOI legislation allows members of public to request information and places an obligation to  respond within 20 working days.

  • If the organisation holds a copy of a document with the requested information it must supply a copy.
  • Or the organisation must state it does not hold a copy of a document with the requested information

Thus the scope of FOI legislation is very broad.

The notion of “holds” makes it even broader as it can mean if anywhere within the organisation there is a paper or electronic copy.  This can mean on someone’s computer, even an email in someones inbox (or any other mailbox!)

There are some restrictions which mean in some cases information doesn’t have to be supplied.  Also if the cost of providing the information exceeds a certain level then the person making the FOI request may be charged.

But broadly speaking once a request is made there must be a response within 20 working days and that response must be a copy of a document (or a statement no such document is held).

If a suitable reply is not forthcoming the  person making the FOI request may repeat the request, perhaps with a shorter time limit.  Alternatively they may take the case to the Information Commissioner.

The person who makes the request is allowed to agree to a delay in the time table in order to attend meetings and to restart the timetable if the meetings are not satisfactory.

Ultimately a document has to be produced if the organisation actual has one.

Regarding my FOI requests TDC clearly has documentary evidence which it has quoted from but it has so far declined to produce a copy of these documents as required by law.

I wonder why.

So How Do Things Stand?

Whilst everyone was friendly and helpful and talked for nearly 2 hours the message is still we know what we’re doing, we’ve got a plan but we can’t tell you what it is yet.

Oh and by the way you’re wrong in what you’re saying about the beach and groynes we’ve got loads of reports but we’re not going to show you them right now, so you just have to take our word.

There’s More To Tendring Than Clacton And Holland

TDC and Mott MacDonald are focusing on the sea front at Clacton up to Holland Haven.

But there’s much more to the Tendring coastline than this.

I have always been suspicious the neglect at Holland Haven was tied in to the EA’s desire to knock down the sea wall between Holland Haven and Frinton in order to flood Frinton Golf Course and Holland Country park in order to create saltmarsh.

When I talked about this the first response EA is responsible here and they have a dual policy a combination of

  1. Hold The Line (keep the sea wall)
  2. Managed Realignment (knock the sea wall down)

It is unclear how you can have such a dual policy unless it means we want to knock the wall down but not right now.

When I attempted to discuss this everyone else was very reluctant to say anything other than it’s EA’s responsibility.


EA may be responsible for maintaining the wall but it’s part of Tendring.

The land behind the wall is definitely part of Tendring.

You would think Tendring District Council (not to mention our mp Douglas Carswell) might have some interest in ensuring that parts of Tendring are not flooded, especially when it is done deliberately by an unelected unaccountable part of government.

I voiced my idea this area would be very attractive to EA (as would Jaywick)  as the sea walls were built much more recently than most of the other sea walls in Tendring, which means there is a much greater chance of successfully creating saltmarsh. I have explain why this is so in this post Holland Haven Sea Wall Will Tendring District Council Let The Sea Destroy It.

The response was “EA is a target driven organisation”.

So that’s it then DEFRA have given EA a target of creating 100 hectares of saltmarsh every year, with 40 hectare in Anglian region.  EA don’t care what they do so long as they met the target.

EA and DEFRA have concluded it is cheaper to knock holes in sea walls (manage realignment) than maintain them.  Partly this is due to projections of massive sea level rise by IPCC computer models.  There is no sign of any such sea level rise actually happening.

There is now powerful, if not overwhelming, evidence the IPCC models are simply wrong. For example, the work of Professor Murray Salby  which I describe here Increasing CO2 Raises Global Temperature Or Does Increasing Temperatur Raise CO2.

Where EA “manage realigns” a site which is protected by treaty (e.g. RAMSAR or SPA treaties protect sites of special scientific interest – usually this means protecting habitat for migrating birds) they attempt to relocate the habitat at a different location.  This habitat relocation is hugely expensive and unnecessary if there is not going to be a large amount of sea level rise over the next century.

Why should you care about relocating habitat?

It’s simple, EA is spending money on habitat location so there is little or no money to spend on repairing the sea wall and groynes at places like Holland-on-Sea.

Notionally DEFRA and EA are help to account by parliament.  But what mp has the time or interest to wade through the mounds of dissembling and obfuscation which would make Sir Humphrey look like a rank amateur.


What about the Naze, which EA plan to let fall into the sea.

If groynes can protect the sea wall at Holland-on-Sea surely they can protect the Naze.

Robert Bucke who is TDC councillor for Kirby-le-Soken, where I live, is also a member of Hamford Water Management Committee, and has been pushing for groynes at the Naze for some time.

Robert makes the point it is wrong to view the coastline at Tendring as just a Tendring issue.

When the Tendring coastline fails Colchester will become a coastal town!

Perhaps you’re thinking what has this got to do with Holland-on-Sea?

Well if TDC are conducting a strategic review of how the coastline can be managed for the next 100 years, why not look at all of Tendring Coastline????

Why just acquiesce whilst EA knocks holes in the sea walls?

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