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Agenda Item No.

 

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 14TH JULY, 2014

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT): 17TH JUNE, 2014

 

 

“           LOSS OF SAND FROM THE VALE’S BEACHES (DDS) –

 

Matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent by reason of the need to avoid undue delay in advising Committee about this matter.

 

Councillor S.T. Wiliam had requested that the matter be considered by the Scrutiny Committee for the following reasons:

 

“The issue of sand loss was a serious one that would have adverse effects on our local environment and economy.  Already its effects are visible on our coast.

 

The report needs to investigate the causes of sand loss from our beaches such as storms and dredging (and any other causes).

 

Any available data measuring how much sand has been lost and at what rate needs to be provided.

 

The future implications of sand loss from our beaches also needs to be contained in the report. The report needs to conclude with recommendations on implementing policies and practical measures to prevent or minimise this loss.â€

 

The report before Committee outlined that the coastal zone was a highly dynamic environment and beach levels varied in response to various forces imposed on them by wind, waves and currents.  The Vale coastline was also subject to a very large tidal range which had a strong influence on the wave action dependent on the state of the tide.  The volume of sediment available to be mobilised and deposited by these forces was key to the presence of beaches, along with the interaction with both natural and man-made structures in the coastal zone.  The impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise and increased storminess and human intervention would all have a role in modifying the Vale’s coastline in the future.  The Severn Estuary (SE) SMP and Lavernock Point to St. Anne’s Head (LPSAH) SMP contained a comprehensive review of how the Vale coast functioned including coastal processes, defence assessments and the impact of marine aggregate extraction.  In referring specifically to dredging the report highlighted that this had the potential to affect the shoreline through either affecting the flow of tides and waves towards the coast or through the removal of sediment which may otherwise contribute to the natural development of beaches.  For this reason, dredging around the coast of the UK was strictly controlled with government control and licensing of Marine Aggregate Dredging in Wales administered by the Welsh Government. 

 

Details of the active dredge zone for the south west, which included the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary, were attached at Appendix A to the report.  It had also recently been announced that dredging had ceased at Holm Sands, the closest dredge site to the Vale coastline effective from 1st May, 2014. 

 

The report referred to the fact that the Vale of Glamorgan Council was defined as a Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authority under the Coastal Protection Act 1949 as amended by Schedule 2 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and that the Council was under no obligation to construct defences to prevent coastal erosion but had permitted powers to do so if it considered it necessary.  It was noted that the monitoring of coastal erosion was managed at three different scales in Wales.  At a national level the Welsh Coastal Monitoring Centre co-ordinated by Gwynedd Council was leading in the development of a programme of on-going monitoring funded by Welsh Government.  At a regional scale the coastal groups co-ordinated the collection of data on behalf of the Member Local Authorities which was partly funded by Welsh Government and at local scale individual maritime local authorities would need to develop monitoring in key areas or on a scheme specific basis aiding the delivery of duties as a Risk Management Authority.

 

The Welsh Coastal Monitoring Centre (WCMC) was also currently developing a national programme for coastal monitoring.  The Vale was represented on the project team which received Welsh Government funding which had been currently been allocated until March 2015.  The Business Case had been submitted to Welsh Government including a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) flight of the entire coast which would capture a baseline survey of the current beach levels and would act as a baseline against which to compare future changes in the coastline. 

The Swansea and Carmarthen Bay Coastal Engineering Group currently commissioned Spring and Autumn profile surveys at 25 locations around the Vale coastline including two profiles in Whitmore Bay.  A licence for SANDS (Shoreline and Nearshore Data System) had recently been purchased which would enable the Vale to carry out an analysis of this data set. 

 

Different monitoring techniques were available to suit the different beach morphologies and site specific monitoring would be required to establish the status and vulnerability of beaches to future change in key areas.  A technical report would be produced identifying such areas and the proposed monitoring regime to be taken.  This report was to be developed in conjunction with the WCMC over the next 12 months. 

 

The Principal Engineer for Flood and Coastal Risk Management in referring to  monitoring regimes stated that an appropriate coastal monitoring regime would be developed and implemented by the Vale of Glamorgan in conjunction with the groups identified above for the Vale coastline.  He also referred to the beach levels in Whitmore Bay which had dropped on the upper beach following the Winter storms in January and February 2014.  These beach levels, however, had subsequently recovered and were anticipated to recover further over several months.  Improved monitoring in the area would provide a basis for future management decisions including the potential impact on tourism and the wider economy.  He further stated that a terrestrial laser scan topographic survey of Whitmore Bay and Jacksons Bay was undertaken on behalf of the Vale in April 2014 following the severe Winter storms earlier in the year.  The survey when received should provide a baseline against which to assess the recovery of beach levels and improve the Council understanding of the sediment dynamics in the area.  The survey would capture data on the promenade structures and adjacent cliffs to inform the ongoing management of erosion and waves overtopping in the area.  The survey is to be repeated annually subject to suitable funding to establish the long term trends in sand volumes in the embayment.

 

The Principal Officer considered that in order for the Council to be able to assess what measures it needs to take in the future regular monitoring surveys are essential in order to develop the required strategies.  However, in making these decisions it was also important to note the cost and frequency of the service to be undertaken and that the Council needed to identify the specific areas where it considered it was imperative that the service be undertaken. 

 

In response to a query regarding dredging he stated that the dredging industry was heavily regulated in the UK and that Welsh Government policy since 2002 had been in general to move dredging further off-shore where possible.   In referring to Paragraph 9 of the report and the comment that beach levels had recovered and were anticipated to recover further over the Summer months, Members queried the information that was available for statement.  The Principal Engineer advised that based on sound engineering judgement and the fact that the beach levels had already recovered it was generally expected that the upper beach would grow as tide levels and wave energy would be lower in the Summer months allowing sand to build on the upper beach. 

 

Councillor Wiliam stated that his main concern in raising the matter was about the holistic effect on all the beaches in the area with the response being that regular monitoring would assist the Council to manage the situation.  A Member in referring to the Nash Bank at Llantwit Major stated that it appeared to be that since dredging had ceased the sand appeared to be returning.  The officer reaffirmed that his strategic aim would be to ensure that a robust monitoring scheme was put in place in order for the Council to build sound data information to make strategic decisions. 

 

Reference was then made to the Penarth Headland Link and concerns of coastal erosion the Principal Engineer advised that the latest landslide had initially been initiated at the top of the cliff, probably due to weathering and groundwater levels in the upper layer of the cliffs.  He was himself not overly concerned in relation to the area, due to the relatively low long-term erosion rates in this area in combination with the distance back to the properties, but would be considering additional surveys to assist in establishing the rates of erosion in this area.  He also took the opportunity to inform the Committee that the Cwm Colhugh site in Llantwit Major had been selected as a site for research into the effect of sea level rise on the erosion of cliffs and that a number of other organisations were in contact with the Council and were undertaking various surveys around the coastline. 

 

In conclusion some Members considered that the erosion and shifting of sand was inevitable. The Principal Engineer however, stated that the purpose of the monitoring regime was to provide a robust evidence base which the Council could then use as a basis for undertaking its role as a Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authority.  If it was established that works to prevent erosion were not feasible or justified the data would be used to inform affected parties of the likely rate of erosion and potential impact on their interests. 

 

Members then took the opportunity to thank the officer for a comprehensive report and for the detailed explanations provided at the meeting.

 

It was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted and be referred with the minutes to Cabinet for information.

 

(2)       T H A T it be noted that a report will be presented on an annual basis to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee detailing the progress of coastal monitoring in the Vale and any issues identified.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       In consideration of the contents of the report which apprised Members of the current situation regarding sand loss and coastal monitoring along the Vale coastline.

 

(2)       To deliver the requirements for monitoring identified in both Shoreline Management Plans (SMP), develop an improved understanding of beach levels to inform future management decisions and to apprise Members.â€

 

 

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 17th June, 2014

 

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