A deepening crisis with no clear solution
Replacing the concrete sea walls, that had defined the region’s approach to coastal erosion to date, was no longer feasible – in fact it would make the situation worse by forcing the impacts of stormy weather down the coast to the neighbouring Bacton and Walcott. That prospect was not something the terminal operators were willing to entertain.
Along the coast, the local government, North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), faced the likelihood of having to relocate their two communities at Bacton and Walcott within the next ten years. The council’s Shoreline Management Plan for the area concluded that no solution could be found to protect homes in the long term.
The crisis unfolding seemed unsolvable, and so the Bacton Gas Companies and NNDC each set out in search of specialist expertise to help chart a route out of the dark. Though they set out separately, they set in motion a process that would bring them and the community together and revolutionise the coastal management approach in the UK.
Sandscaping, an engineering art form
Enter Jaap Flikweert and his team. Jaap is a leading flood and coastal management advisor for the UK with Royal HaskoningDHV. His knowledge and expertise have made him a regular media spokesperson on the impact of major flood events in the UK – where he has seen first-hand the devastating impact of storm surges.
Working within Royal HaskoningDHV, a global engineering consultancy driven by a promise to enhance society through sustainable and innovative solutions, Jaap and his colleagues have opportunities to be at the forefront of new innovations in engineering, often collaborating across nations to pioneer new approaches to age old issues.
In this case, the issue was coastal erosion, and the solution had been forged by the Dutch National Innovation Platform on the South Holland coast; in a project supported by Royal HaskoningDHV’s expertise. There, they called it the Zandmotor or ‘sand engine’ – here in the UK we call it sandscaping.
It sounds like an art form – and there is beauty in its design. In simple terms, sandscaping uses dredging vessels to extract millions of cubic metres of sand (to get an understanding of how much that is, imagine your favourite stadium – now fill it with sand) from designated sites on the seabed, belonging to The Crown Estate, before placing it on the coast and using the energy of the sea to distribute it over time; thus bolstering the natural coastline without leaving a mark.