Lyme Regis is a small coastal town on the south coast of England. It lies on the western edge of the Dorset Coast and forms part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site famous for its fossils and coastal landforms. The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer.
What were the reasons for coastal management in Lyme Regis?
The coast at Lyme Regis experiences erosion. Much of the town has been constructed on unstable cliffs, which experience some of the highest erosion rates in Europe due to high energy waves from the southwest and its geology. The geology of Lyme Regis is a mixture of limestone, resistant to erosion, and clay, vulnerable to erosion. The clay lies on limestone, so as the clay erodes, the cliffs are vulnerable to landslides. Therefore, houses, roads and farmland are at risk of cliff landslides.
In addition, tourist numbers were down due to the lack of beaches caused by erosion.
What was the coastal management strategy at Lyme Regis?
The local government developed a plan to manage the coastline at Lyme Regis called the Lyme Regis Environmental Improvement Scheme. During the planning process, the local government consulted different interest groups, including residents, fishermen, and environmentalists, to reduce conflicts.
Several strategies have been used to protect Lyme Regis from coastal erosion. These are explored below.
Coastal management strategies used at Lyme Regis
The harbour is dredged annually to improve navigation, and the dredged sand is used to replenish the beach. This provides additional protection from coastal processes and supports the tourist industry.
1990 - 1995
Phase 1 involved the construction of a sea wall and promenade to the east of the mouth of the River Lim. An emergency cliff stabilisation project was completed during the winter of 2003-2004. It involved using large nails to hold the rocks together, as well as improving drainage and reprofiling the slope of the beach.
£22 million was spent on extensive improvements to the seafront, including:
the construction of new seawalls and promenades;
the creation of a wide sand and shingle beach designed to absorb wave energy; and
the extension of rock armour to protect the harbour wall (The Cobb) and to the eastern end of the seafront to absorb wave energy and retain the new beach.
Phase 3 of the project, a plan to prevent landslips and coastal erosion to the west of The Cobb, was cancelled as the costs outweighed the benefits.
Phase 4 involved the construction of defences to protect the coast to the east of the town. The £20 million project involved building a 390m sea wall in front of the existing wall. 480 homes were protected as cliffs were stabilised by nailing, piling and improving drainage.
Nails, up to 19 metres long, have been installed into the cliffs. Once installed, the nails were covered with a 60 to 120-year design life mesh.
What are the effects of coastal management at Lyme Regis?
There has been a significant improvement in the attractiveness of the seafront and beach due to nourishment and the wide promenade. This has led to increased visitor numbers, and seafront businesses are thriving.
The new defences have withstood recent stormy winters.
The harbour is better protected, benefiting the fishing industry and boat owners.
Conflicts have increased as visitor numbers have increased. For example, local people have experienced increased traffic congestion and litter due to increased tourism.
Some feel the new coastal defences have spoilt the natural coastal landscape.
The new defences may interfere with natural coastal processes affecting neighbouring stretches of coastline, causing conflicts elsewhere.
Stabilising cliffs that prevent landslides will reduce the number of fossils found in the area.
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