15 August 2019

Bacton to Walcott Sandscaping Scheme

In July 2019, work began to place approximately 2 million cubic metres of sand, almost twice the volume of the Empire State Building, on the North Norfolk coast. It’s the result of an innovative coastal defence project called ‘The Bacton to Walcott Sandscaping Scheme’.

This area of coastline in North Norfolk is home to the Bacton Gas Terminal which handles a third of the country's gas supply. It is also a popular and sandy destination for locals and visitors. However, coastal erosion over the years has meant that existing coastal defences are no longer fit for purpose – to protect the nationally important gas terminal and local communities from the elements. 

The coastal defence project is led by North Norfolk County Council, in partnership with the Environment Agency, Royal HaskoningDHV, and Shell and Perenco. The Crown Estate has been working collaboratively with this project group to provide our knowledge and expertise in finding a solution to restore and protect this coastline.

The result of the collaboration is an innovative ‘green infrastructure’ solution, based on the concept of the Zand Motor, or ‘sand engine’, which originated in the Netherlands. Instead of using concrete or rock which have traditionally been used to build coastal defences, the ‘green infrastructure’ solution uses a large volume of sand. This delivers a much more sustainable product, which, used in the right way, can play a clever role in protecting the coastline for many years to come.

Over the summer, the sand will be deposited right along the coastline by Van Oord. This will strengthen the cliffs and create deeper and higher beaches which naturally absorb some of the force of the waves. The largest amount will be placed along the northern part of the coast by the gas terminal. Over time the excess sand will be moved naturally by the tide to continuously replenish the beaches of the neighbouring villages, Bacton and Walcott further south. This will not only strengthen their coastal defences, but have the added benefit of improving the beaches.

We are proud to have played an active role in helping to bring this innovative idea to the UK and, throughout the concept stages, working closely with the local authority and the Environment Agency to provide our insights, including jointly funding a feasibility study.

In addition to providing our expertise, we also granted the permission for the extraction of sand from the seabed for this project, as well as the lease to the foreshore and part of the seabed involved to enable the large volume of sand to be deposited.

The scheme shows that the concept can be adapted and made to suit local needs here in the UK, providing a sustainable solution to protect our important coastline.

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