West Kirby sea defences – ‘Come and see and say’ event

A flood defence scheme for West Kirby was given the go-ahead by Wirral Council’s planning committee in November 2021.

The scheme, which has been nearly six years in planning, will involve the construction of a 1.1km long curved wall along South Parade, between the junctions with Sandy Lane and Riversdale Road.

There will be tomorrow, Saturday 5 March, a full-scale section of the new sea wall on display on the prom at West Kirby between 11am and 1pm. Some Wirral councillors, including Andrew Gardner, are said to be there to hear people’s views.

A number of different options were considered for providing the necessary protection, but the concept of a barrier adjacent to the highway was identified as the preferred option by the council and which met national environmental, technical and financial criteria for grant aid funding from the Environment Agency.

The scheme will protect 70 properties at risk of flooding now from extreme tidal events and give more than 500 properties improved protection over the next century as sea levels rise.

The cost is covered by a £2.2m flood defence grant, a £1m contribution from other Central Governments funding streams and the balance from Wirral Council’s capital programme for infrastructure projects.

Not everyone is happy with the plans. Local resident, Judith Carter told birkenhead.news, “I live on the Wirral in West Kirby, on the Dee Estuary.  There is a 1.2km long Victorian promenade, with a marine lake adjacent.

Explaining the location of the new sea defences, she said, “It is the jewel of the town with superb sunset views to Wales and is a great tourist attraction. The council rebuilt the marine lake in 2008 – a great success.  

“There are about 70 houses and four businesses, a sailing centre and a sailing club alongside the water. There is a high tide for an hour, sometimes, twice a day. On very high tides with a north west wind the waves overtop the prom, which they’ve done since Victorian times.”

However, Judith has some reservations about the design; “There are some technical concerns about disabled access,” she said, “Cars will park next to a narrow pavement behind the wavy wall.  That pavement is 1.2m wide – below the recommended minimum of 1.8m wide.  ‘Passing places’ of 1.7m will have lampposts in them.  Access gates are approximately 100m apart, depending on where access roads join the prom from the landward side.  Widening the pavement to 1.8m would leave the prom itself unacceptably narrow. 

“There is maybe a case for a wall or some more heavy-duty defence in front of some 12 properties away from the protective marine lake at the north end of the prom.”

Judith has some suggestions for the council; “There are much cheaper alternatives to building a wall, including placing barriers, or paying householders to install them, in drives and the entrance to side roads. The council said that wouldn’t do, because they wanted to protect the prom itself – which has not suffered any significant damage so far.”

An initial consultation took place in 2015 and again in 2019, following confirmation of Environment Agency funding.

Changes made to the initial proposal as a result of public opinion included:-

  • The design is now a continuous curving seat rather than the original vertical straight structure;
  • Timber-slat seating will be provided on the sitting feature within the wall;
  • The promenade would be finished in a sandy-buff colour, with those colours also extended across onto the footpath on the landward side of South Parade;
  • Public realm features such as gateways across the highway and onto the promenade at all of the pedestrian access points, highlighted with icons linking to the local environment;
  • The highway and the landward footpath are to be resurfaced, with a clearly marked cycle lane provided within the one-way highway arrangement;
  • A circular trail around the promenade and lake, with distance markers counting up and down every 100m;
  • The Marine Lake railings will be refurbished and the original shelters renovated and relocated to keep the Victorian heritage;
  • The wall will be constructed around the new West Kirby Sailing Centre building; and
  • Refurbishment of the Old Baths Site will create a new 1500m2 events space.

You can have your say on the proposals and be able to see a sample full-size cross-section of the wall at West Kirby prom tomorrow, Saturday 5 March between 11am and 1pm.

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