14 September 2016

Tony Parker, Director of Engineering at Shoreham Port discusses the importance of performing a biannual beach feed to ensure beach levels remain consistent and provide adequate coast protection at all times.

The Port has suffered from storm damage over the last few years, with storm winds and waves causing extensive damage along the whole of our frontage.

Waves are particularly energetic, as we all know locally, and one of the effects of large waves is to reduce the level of the shingle at the top of our beaches.  This in turn allows even larger waves to travel ever closer to the Port roads and terminals and to cause greater damage.  Shingle levels on the beaches tend to recover to some extent during calmer weather but, as the waves mostly come from the south west, the shingle usually comes back in further to the east of the spot it disappeared from.  This is the basis of the natural process known as longshore or littoral drift and on our section of the south coast about 26,000 tonnes of shingle moves eastwards in an average year.

Of course, obstructions to the longshore drift, such as the harbour arms at Shoreham and Brighton Marina cause a build-up of shingle on the west side and a lowering of levels to the east.  In fact, the community of Shoreham Beach is built entirely on shingle that has accumulated against the harbour arms since the original ones were built in 1760.  At present, there is a huge build-up of shingle to the west of the harbour entrance on the seaward side of the Local Nature Reserve and a corresponding dearth of material to the east.

These days, with houses, ports and seaside resorts built on much of our shoreline, the natural dynamic movements on the foreshore have to be continuously managed to keep the shoreline in the same place and our buildings and roads safe.  The Port plays a part in helping to manage the foreshore by arranging for and financing the movement of shingle from areas where there is too much, to areas where more is needed.  Work to manage the beach along the whole of our coastline must be coordinated if all lengths are to be protected and we are constantly working with others to manage the process in the most sensible and least disruptive manner possible.  However, the Port acting alone only has the ability, enshrined in law, to move shingle from the west side of the harbour entrance to the east side. 

Normally, we undertake this shingle movement twice a year in the spring and autumn but this year we were unable for logistical reasons to undertake a spring transfer.  This has exacerbated the extremely low levels of the beach to the east, where we are already suffering from damage in even relatively mild storms, and we were faced with no choice but to bring the autumn shingle transfer forward a few weeks so that beach levels can be raised before the weather worsens greatly. The shingle transfer began on Tuesday 6th September and should take no more than five weeks to complete.

We fully understand that this decision will cause disruption to local residents when the weather is still relatively warm and we apologise for this. 

If anyone has any queries about the way the operation is being carried out, please do contact the Port as soon as possible on 01273 598100 or email info@shoreham-port.co.uk.