A multi-million pound scheme, designed to hold back the worst the Irish Sea can throw at the Fylde coast, has been officially opened.
The Rossall Coast Protection Scheme, and the adjacent new ecology park, have been described as a triple success by DEFRA minister David Rutley for its flood defences, ecology boost and local regeneration.
The two kilometres of sea defences is designed to protect 7,500 homes in the area from flooding, and led to the creation of the Larkholme Grasslands wildlife area on the landward side.
Led by Wyre Council, in partnership with the Environment Agency and main contractor Balfour Beatty, the £63.2m scheme is one of the three projects being delivered by the Fylde Peninsula Coastal Programme Partnership, alongside the recently completed Anchorsholme Coastal Protection Scheme in Blackpool, and the Fairhaven to Church Scar Coastal Protection Scheme in Lytham.
Designed to protect the coast from the Irish Sea during major storms over the next century, the Rossall flood defences will provide better protection to the town’s tramway, hospital, homes and schools, its builders pledged.
The Environment Agency has taken global warming into account in its construction, including a rise in sea level and a change in weather patterns.
At Larkholme Grasslands, the park has been designed by Lancashire County Council, with bridges and artwork by Stephen Broadbent, a British sculptor who specialises in public art and linked to the story of The Sea Swallow, cementing its place on the ‘Mythic Coast’.
Beginning at Cleveleys, visitors to the site can follow an artwork and poetry trail from the popular children’s book until the story ends at Rossall Point Observation Tower.
Characters from The Sea Swallow, including a giant stainless steel seashell and sea ogre carved from limestone, can also be spotted along the picturesque walk.
This strip of grassland, from West Way to Fleetwood Golf Club, has already been classed as a biological heritage site because of the rare species of flora and fauna that grow there.
The completion of the scheme delivers on a long-held vision to not only create a lagoon area behind the new defences – to act as an additional flood storage for spray coming over the seawall – but also to provide a home for wildlife and a new green space for residents and tourists to enjoy.
Around 50 guests were present at yesterday afternoon’s opening, including Fleetwood’s Labour MP Cat Smith.
Coun Roger Berry, neighbourhood services and community safety boss at Wyre Council, said: “I’d like to thank all our partners for helping us to deliver the new sea defences.
“The completed scheme will not only protect our residents, their homes and our businesses and infrastructure, but also has provided us with a visually stunning promenade for walkers and cyclists. Locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy the magnificent coastline, whilst the grasslands will give a contrasting green and natural landscape.”
Dean Banks, Balfour Beatty chief executive officer for the firm’s UK construction services, said: “We are delighted the community and visitors to the Fylde coast can now fully experience the extensive benefits of the Rossall scheme, which will protect thousands of nearby properties from flooding and offer a captivating promenade for people of all ages to enjoy. The project’s success is a testament to the skills and working relationship between the integrated delivery team, with Wyre Council and the Environment Agency.”
Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency chief executive, added: “This is one of the biggest investments ever in a coastal flood scheme.”
And Defra Minister David Rutley said: “Rossall’s new coastal defence scheme has been made possible thanks not only to significant government funding, but also the huge support of local government and other partners. The result is positive news for the community – regenerating the area, creating an ecology park and providing better protection for 7,500 properties from the risk of flooding.I also welcome the fact these vital defences have been constructed using local materials and expertise, supporting industry and the economy in the north west.”
Among the two kilometres of sheet piling rock and concrete are 327,000 tonnes of locally sourced rock from 12 quarries across the north.