THE Outline Business Case (OBC) for enhancements to coastal defences at Llandudno’s North Shore and West Shore have been given the green light by Welsh Government.
A Full Business Case (FBC), which will set out the economic, procurement and management arrangements, is now being prepared for the scheme, which is expected to benefit 5,307 properties, and which could see a sand beach return to North Shore.
A public consultation will take place later this year, with the OBC stating that, throughout previous consultation exercises with Llandudno residents and the Llandudno Coastal Forum (LCF), “there was overwhelming support for the installation of a sand beach supported by timber groynes”.
A Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) spokesperson confirmed: “The OBC has been approved by Welsh Government. We are now working on the detail needed for the FBC, advancing the concept designs for the options in the OBC.
“We will be working on ground investigations and holding a public consultation later this year.”
The OBC also states that, other than ceasing maintenance and beach monitoring or continuing with “business as usual”, the following three options were shortlisted for each site:
• “Do Something 1”: Beach nourishment (at the western end, replacing part of the cobble beach with sand) with shore-connected structures, such as fishtail or timber groynes, and raising the rear wall in order to minimise risk of flooding from overtopping.
• “Do Something 2”: Beach nourishment alone.
• “Do Something 3”: Business as usual with the raising of the rear promenade wall before year 50.
For all three of the above, ad-hoc repairs to existing defences were also included.
• “Do Something 1”: Periodic beach maintenance – business as usual but to include topping up with additional shingle, as required.
• “Do Something 2”: Business as usual, plus the extension of secondary defences between the existing hard defences and the dunes in front of North Wales Golf Club.
• “Do Something 3”: Implementation of both of the above, as well as provision of new windblown sand control measures such as sand traps or rock layer, and of a raised or realigned walkway along the southern half of the frontage.
The OBC later stated that the preferred option for North Shore is “Do Something 3”, due to having the best benefit-cost ratio and meeting all critical success factors.
“Do Something 1” was considered best for West Shore for reasons such as it being the least expensive option for the frontage, and its increased flood protection for the town in the long-term.
Last month, Nigel Treacy, chair of LCF, told the Pioneer: “LCF was set up in 2014 in response to public outcry about the town’s North Shore beach.
“Over the past eight years, our initial focus was to address the issue of the rocks at North Shore, the access issues it creates and possible solutions that would both address flood risk whilst exploring the possibility of restoring the beach to its former glory. Later, our remit extended to include West Shore.
“In 2016, as Welsh Government announced its £150million Coastal Risk Management programme, CCBC commissioned (engineering firm) AECOM to produce a first Beach Management Plan that would support the proposal to improve the town’s North and West Shores.
“In 2021, the consultant presented nine combination options to the council ranging from £6.7m to £23.9m.
“Whilst the £6.7m option represented ‘best value’, critically, it also recommended no change to the beach cobble at North Shore.
“The forum unanimously voted against this option and instead voted for the £23.9m option of beach nourishment (sand) to the west end of the beach, with shore structures to protect and retain sand (such as fishtail or timber groynes) and raising the wall slightly.
“This option will also include improvements to West Shore to address flooding and issues with wind-blown sand.
“In June 2021 at CCBC’s Economy and Place Scrutiny meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to pursue the £23.9m option, a solution that will also serve to renourish the beach to its former glory.
“The OBC was completed by the council and submitted to Welsh Government flood branch for consideration.
“Whilst we await the decision from Welsh Government, the culmination of eight years’ hard work between the LCF members, residents, businesses and council has ensured we present the very best case for a more meaningful and ambitious solution that will protect against flood risk whilst enhancing visitor experience.”
Welsh Government funding is being applied for through this OBC for 100 per cent funding of the design and development costs (£510,000) and 75 per cent of the scheme construction costs (£860,000).
By the 1990s, the defences at North Shore were in poor condition, and significant flood damage to them had occurred from storms.
A scheme to repair them comprised of the implementation of a gravel cobble beach in front of the hard defences, repair works to the existing defences, reconstruction of the promenade with the addition of a flood wall, and rebuilding of the dwarf wall over the frontage to the west.
It is currently protected by primarily hard defences with the natural gravel upper beach, supplemented by artificial recharge, which protects the stepped sea wall and promenade behind.
At West Shore, in the early 1990s, three rock fishtail groynes were constructed, and the upper beach between the structures was reinforced with sand, shingle and cobbles.
A consequence since the groynes’ construction has been an increase in windblown sand that has needed regular removal, while natural dune features have developed at the roots of each groyne.
News of the Welsh Government’s approval of the OBC follows criticisms and concerns raised about CCBC’s handling of the coastal defence developments at North Shore.
Ian Turner, formerly of Llandudno Town Council and Restore Our Beach, a pressure group urging CCBC to remove the stones and rocks from the site, accused the council of having “hoodwinked the general public into believing that they want to rectify the problems they caused to North Shore”.
Mr Turner said: “I have been trying to find the right words to convey how incensed I am at the actions of CCBC over the last eight years.
“They have, without question, completely hoodwinked the general public into believing that they want to rectify the problems they caused to North Shore by dumping a further 50,000 tonnes of oversized and untested quarry rocks.
“North Shore is in a worse state now than ever it has been. Yet on this very day, we see CCBC actively pumping a further million tonnes of sand onto the beach in Rhos-on-Sea/Colwyn Bay.
“Everything the council say they need to do to rectify the huge environmental problems with North Shore, that they themselves brought about, such as planning, modelling out, funding applications, permissions etc., have applied to Rhos-on-Sea/Colwyn Bay – the principles are just the same.
“You only have to look at what the council have done in Rhos-on-Sea/Colwyn Bay in the last eight years, and compare it to what they have done in Llandudno.
“The council have concentrated their efforts in the Colwyn Bay area and have left the problems on North Shore to fester unabated’ it’s absolutely disgraceful.
“Access on and off North Shore continues to be dangerous. The beach is not environmentally or tourism friendly at all.
“It’s unsightly and does nothing to enhance the importance of the beach to our main industry – tourism.”
In response to this, a CCBC spokesperson said: “We are working on improving coastal defences all along Conwy’s coastline.
“The Llandudno coastal defence scheme will protect a significant number of people and properties. The scheme is being delivered in the same stages that other schemes have to go through.
“We have been continuing to work on planning, modelling and funding for Llandudno North Shore and West Shore.”
Concerns were also raised by Tom Ellis, who runs his family’s boat business at North Shore, and who said he feared that jetties such as the two he owns may be displaced by developments.
Tom met with council officials on May 26, but said that he felt what was proposed sounded “a bit far-fetched”.
He said: “I had a meeting with the members of the council, but all they’re proposing at the moment is to do some ground samples, effectively to find out how deep the rock is and what material (clay, sand etc.) is above that.
“Then, they’re looking to design a model which is then going to go to public consultation, as far as I can ascertain.
“I have to say, what they were talking about sounds a bit far-fetched. They want to do a sand beach, extending 800m from the prom seaward, level with the prom.
“That’s millions of cubic metres of sand, and up to 50 groynes stretching the entire length of the North Shore prom. I can’t see that happening.
“With what they’re saying, the jetties would effectively be 3-5m deep under sand. At the moment, they’re not giving much away.
“It’s possible (boatmen like Tom might lose business), but until we see this model, we don’t have much of an idea as to what it is they’re talking about.
“We can’t even get the council to maintain anything on the North Shore as it is now, so where they’re going to find hundreds of millions of pounds from to do all of this work, I just don’t know.
“They said to me that a structural engineer has been taken on by the council to oversee all of this work.
“They’re on about stretching groynes and sand the entire length of the prom, effectively from the pier, right down to the lifeboat station.
“There’s a lot of people in the dark about what they’re proposing at the moment. I don’t think they’re being totally open and honest about what’s going on behind the scenes.”
A CCBC spokesperson responded to this by saying: “The proposals are not yet finalised. Residents and businesses will have opportunity to view plans and discuss issues during future consultations.”
Elsewhere, news that the OBC has been approved garnered a positive reaction from both the Aberconwy MP and MS, Robin Millar and Janet Finch-Saunders respectively.
Mr Millar said: “This is positive progress. It is very important we maintain and protect our shoreline in Llandudno for visitors and residents’ use into the future.
“I look forward to seeing the council’s work and the consultation in due course.”
Mrs Finch-Saunders added: “Only recently, I discussed the progress of this issue with the local authority and wrote to the minster for climate change (Julie James) to once again outline the case for the beach to be restored to its former glory and the potential benefits of such a move to our local tourism economy.
“As such, it is truly outstanding news that the Welsh Government has approved the OBC put forward by CCBC.
“This result brings us one step closer to seeing sand returned to Llandudno’s North Shore beach.
“I have worked tirelessly with local residents, businesses and other stakeholders since the dumping of quarry stones in 2014 and progress would not have been possible without their continued persistence.
“I would also like to thank the Environment, Road and Facilities Department, led by Geraint Edwards, for their outstanding work on this OBC.
“Furthermore, I commend the previous cabinet of CCBC for listening to the views of the people of Llandudno on this issue.
“It is now imperative that the newly appointed cabinet continue to pursue the restoration of North Shore with energy and vigour.
“We cannot waste one moment more in seeing the Queen of Welsh Resorts’ beautiful beach freed of the horrid quarry stones.”
The OBC is available to view from page 153 onwards at: modgoveng.conwy.gov.uk/documents/g8586/Public%20reports%20pack%20Tuesday%2008-Jun-2021%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10.
Attempts were also made to contact Welsh Government.