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Hot topic of Penzance harbour protection on agenda

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

Waves batter Penzance seafront. Cornwall Council believes rock armour will protect south pier and reduce wave overtopping.

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A HUGELY controversial issue that has caused deep divisions in a west Cornwall town is back on the agenda this week.

Rock armour sparked many a heated debate when it was discussed as part of the doomed Option A harbour development scheme in Penzance.

A special town council meeting was due to be held last night to see the subject debated once again as discussions over the future development of the harbour continue.

A letter sent to the town council by Norman Baker at the Department for Transport gave approval for a scheme that includes harbour dredging but the local council was also asked for its views on the use of rock armour.

"This is hugely controversial and also very, very costly," said John Maggs, co-ordinator of the Friends of Penzance Harbour and a board member of the Penzance Seafront Forum.

"It is not a question of whether rock armour is good or bad, it takes funds away from things that would directly benefit the town.

"Rock armour has nothing to do with the Isles of Scilly link and this is an easy way out for Cornwall Council who should be maintaining the pier anyway."

The DfT letter said County Hall had been invited to develop plans for dredging and submit them for formal planning. Mr Baker has deferred his decision on rock armour until hearing the views of the town council.

"Rock armour will attract a lot of focus," said Councillor Jon Pender, also a member of the Penzance Harbour Scheme Management Board which was set up to find a way forward for development works.

The board laid out its own vision for the waterfront which included demolition of buildings and quay upgrades. But Cornwall Council refused to back it, instead vouching for dredging and the possible use of rock armour along the grade two * listed south pier and Lighthouse Quay.

The government letter also gave hope that other areas of the blueprint put forward by the town could be incorporated into the latest development.

Mr Baker said that if a "modest scope" for works could be agreed between town and county and drawn up in time to receive the cash available from Europe, then he would consider it.

"I hope they take on some of the works we were envisioning on the north arm, like demolition of the rank building, and widening of the quay," said Mr Pender.


"I want to talk about all the things we put forward and say, 'can we persuade you to take any of this on?'."

Mr Pender said he welcomed the latest letter from Whitehall, saying any cash investment is better than nothing.

"The dredging alone will cost well over £1 million – that is a lot of investment," he said.

"If you think back 18 months, everyone was walking away from a scheme and now we have a reasonable amount of money going in."

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said the authority endeavours to secure external funding wherever it can to reduce the demand on the local council tax payer.

"Cornwall Council has works under way to maintain the Penzance harbour South Pier," they said. "Rock armour, which already has all necessary approvals, would provide protection to the pier itself and would significantly reduce wave overtopping, enhancing protection of the Scillonian berth and the safety of those using the pier."

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  • Regennotdegen  |  November 04 2012, 4:25PM

    The most irritating thing about the rock armour argument is that now we will have to pay for it whereas as part of the Route Partnerships scheme to would all have been paid for as part of the new terminal.. John Maggs "It is not a question of whether rock armour is good or bad, it takes funds away from things that would directly benefit the town. It was made plain to the Option A objectors that if the re-claimation of land did not go ahead for the new terminal it was likely that rock armour would be the end result to protect the Harbour and that it would divert our money away from funding more regeneration projects please don't start complaining about it now.

  • Lafrowda  |  October 12 2012, 2:14PM

    Thank you rcliffe. Seems a minimal change to the scene in order to protect the existing wall.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  October 12 2012, 10:01AM

    So clearly the rock armour finishes at a level in line with the quay main surface not all the way up the protective wall......this is absolutely not what FOPZH are showing with thier fictious comp generated photo image. The point rcliffe makes viz enviroment agency funding should be key to any decision....' money is only availablle for the most strategic and vulnerable sites'....when the situation worsens for Pz harbour , due to sea level increase, we will be amongst many other claims for sea defense funding from the entire uk. Why does Mr Maggs suppose that Pz will be preferred for this exspensive scheme of offshore breakwaters in the face of every other seaside community applying for the same pot of money. By the time Pz harbour becomes a priority in terms of coastal flooding so will dozens of other communities and if a Scilly isles service is to continue from the town it will be given the cheapest option anyway due to the increased pressure on finite funds...rock armour to the pier.

  • rcliffe  |  October 12 2012, 3:21AM

    Rock armour for the Route Partnership scheme is shown in the attached document. http://tinyurl.com/9chx8kj (scroll through the document) The extent of the armour is limited to the outer 2/3 of the Pier by the 2009 Harbour Revision Order. No rock armour is permitted on the inner 1/3 of South Pier (was due to be reclaimed but that is not now happening). No Pier extension either. The problem with an off shore barrage as proposed by objectors to rock armour is the scale and the cost. DfT will not pay for such a scheme. The Environment Agency have higher priorities and not enough money. Without a fix for South Pier the DfT and ERDF are unlikely to fund any new facilities in Penzance Harbour - it just does not make sense if there is uncertainty over the life of the Pier. It is not possible to use the current ERDF funds for the Town Council's plan for harbour works at Penzance because the projects cannot be worked up and all permissions achieved by Apr/May 2013 - the DfT deadline (project contracts must be let by Dec 13 to qualify for ERDF funds). The rock armour is eligible for ERDF funding and is already approved (it has English Heritage approval) - it just needs about £2.5 million.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  October 11 2012, 6:25PM

    Or look at Plymouth sound breakwater. The most imminent danger is to the south pier....the county council rock amour against the harbour wall protects the listed structure and protects those using it. The Maggs illusionist want us to believe that a much more exspensive off shore scheme is achievable.......just like opt a there is no alternative plan ready and no funding....like opt a Penzance will miss the boat again

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  • AllbertRos  |  October 11 2012, 6:07PM

    The use of rock armour does not necessarily mean it has to be piled up against either the harbour wall or the promenade. Offshore rubble mound revetments would equally provide protection against wave attack. These forms of marine structure have also been used to create accretion of sediments on the foreshore, something that the prom badly needs. see for example the offshore breakwaters at Elmer http://tinyurl.com/42dorzp The wave attenuation properties can be seen by going to Newlyn during a storm and seeing how the off shore breakwater on the harbour ram stops waves rolling uo into Newlyn Coombe.

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  • Regennotdegen  |  October 11 2012, 3:14PM

    Facts have never been much use to FOPZH. The misinformation campaign they mounted to scupper Option A was supported by our useless M.P. the Town Council, the Ex Mayor (who it turns out was actually employed of the M.P.) and the local press (who were in no way impartial as they should have been) and who will no doubt will be delighted to print every word of the FOPZH's scaremongering B.S. in next weeks Cornishman. Just for the record I do not want to see the promenade strewn with boulders (not terribly worried about it being used adjacent to the Harbour wall on Battery Rocks) but arguing about it without suggesting a practical and cost effective alternative will not stop the Prom being undermined or the Harbour eventually becoming a useless pile of rubble due to the relentless pounding it receives every winter.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  October 11 2012, 2:53PM

    Maggs should be exposed for the mis information he is peddaling via his 'freinds of Pz harbour' network where he, or others, has crafted computer generated images of totally ludicrous mountains of rock amour to the harbour wall and to the entire promenade. He cites two examples of alternative schemes - one being the failed surf reef at Boscombe and a tiny village in wales which bears no comparison to Mounts bay. If he cared to be factual he would have to admit that an offshore reef/breakwater solution would be massively exspensive and that agreeing to this viable first phase would'nt exclude a more comprehensive future bay wide scheme. In my view the council should take the bird in the hand option of rock amour that is on offer and still work toward a future off shore sea defence scheme...but for Maggs the poxy slip of grey sand at Battery rocks has , it seems, become sacred. If councillors are persuaded by Maggs fictional arguments then we will lose the chance of any defence of the harbour for the next ten twenty years... a stitch in time springs to mind.

  • Regennotdegen  |  October 11 2012, 12:56PM

    As predicted by many, the loss of substantial harbour improvements (Option A) means that the much lauded Harbour wall is probably going to be buried beneath Rock Armour anyway and instead of the cost being borne by the European Funding (our money anyway given back to us piecemeal) it will have to come out of local taxes taking funding away from other essential services. The only other outcome from this will be the usual situation in PZ, lots of money into the consultants pockets but nothing will actually happen, the Harbour wall will continue to be damaged by storms until it finally falls into the sea.

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  • Lafrowda  |  October 11 2012, 8:39AM

    It would be a more informative article if "rock armour" was explained.

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