Higher than forecast tidal surge at West Kirby leaves council unable to close all floodgates in time

This article is currently receiving a high number of views. Please bear in mind that it was published on 13 February 2024.

Wirral Council was not able to close the gates of its £20m West Kirby sea wall in time after receiving a flood alert leaving water spilling out onto the road.

The local authority said a high tide tidal surge at noon on 12 February was higher than initial forecasts and as a result, “it was too late to close the majority of the flood gates” installed to seal gaps in the flood defence that ordinarily provide access to West Kirby’s promenade when there is no risk of flooding.

The sea wall was built between April 2022 and finished in September 2023 with a final budget of £19.7m to protect seafront properties in West Kirby from flooding. The costs were much higher than initial forecasts which the council said was due to unexpected issues with the promenade itself, problems relocating the RNLI, design costs, and inflation.

The increased costs have been paid for by the Environment Agency and other public bodies with Wirral Council’s contribution remaining the same despite the rise. The wall was controversial during construction but following completion, public perception has reportedly become more positive.

Advisers on the scheme said homes that would have been flooded every ten or 20 years before the wall’s existence are now only at risk from a once in a 200 year storm and John Curtin from the Environment Agency previously said that without the wall, “the town would eventually die from flooding too frequently.”

When there is high risk of flooding, Wirral Council said it would close the gates along the seawall preventing water from spilling onto South Parade. However, a video circulated on Facebook showed part of the promenade flooding as waves pour through an open floodgate.

Asked why it had not closed the gates on this occasion, a spokesperson for the local authority said, “The tidal surge at West Kirby at yesterday’s noon high tide was higher than initially forecast and by the time we received the flood alert, it was too late to close the majority of the flood gates. This resulted in some standing water pooling on the road surface along parts of South Parade for a short time. While this was unfortunate, it is important to note that, without the new flood defence, South Parade would have had to have been closed completely to traffic as water would have flowed across the whole carriageway.

“We have received a further flood alert from the Environment Agency for this afternoon’s high tide (13 February). Although levels are lower than yesterday and wind direction is southerly, the Environment Agency is still forecasting some overtopping and splash onto the promenade at West Kirby.

“Based on observations from yesterday, we arranged for closure of four of the gates this morning at the lowest and most susceptible point on the promenade – the gates between Alexandra Road and the RNLI Lifeboat Station will be closed to minimise the chance of splash flowing onto the highway in this area.”

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news