Littlehaven Promenade & Seawall
The Littlehaven promenade and seawall scheme has transformed a stretch of South Shields’ seafront in north east England from a neglected length of coastline into a desirable visitor destination. The scheme demonstrates how a conventional sea defence scheme can, with appropriate innovation in design and attention to detail during construction, be delivered to provide both a robust sea defence function and significant enhancement to a local community.
Littlehaven Beach is located within the metropolitan borough of South Tyneside in the north east region of England. It extends between the South Groyne and the South Pier of the River Tyne where the river meets the sea. It is characterised by a sandy beach approximately 700m in length. The beach forms the northern most section of the South Shields coastal frontage and was a neglected length of coastline, with the adjacent areas forming the main tourist attractions. In recent years significant investment has taken place in the surrounding area with the aim of improving amenity and the wider ‘offer’ of the South Shields tourist resort. Littlehaven beach was backed by a seawall that was coming to the end of its serviceable life leading to the frequent flooding and closure of the car park and amenities located directly behind. The primary function of this project was to provide coastal defence therefore a significant amount of the scheme was led by structural performance. Proposals included the demolition of a failing seawall, on-site reuse of excavated material in raising levels and landscaping of backing land areas, construction of a 500m promenade and seawall along a new, landward and more sustainable, curved alignment, a stepped apron and backwall. However, South Tyneside Council recognised that there was an opportunity also provide a high quality amenity area that fits within the local environment and adds to the offer of South Shields as a tourist resort.
Working with the Project Engineers, Royal HaskoningDHV, OOBE’s team, including Broadbent Studio and E3 Ecology, were initially commissioned to develop proposals to tender stage that would soften the hard engineering aspects of the scheme, enhance the design of the public realm and embed the scheme into the wider environment. In fact, OOBE were retained as Design Advisors through to completion of the scheme.
Innovation was at the core. ‘Working with nature’, the scheme is the first coastal defence project to pro-actively realign a seawall landward to intentionally increase the width of the natural beach providing a more sustainable line of defence. OOBE developed an innovative concept which runs throughout the scheme with bespoke features including seats, artwork and branding ensuring the scheme reflects its unique location, heritage and culture. High quality concrete finishes and breath-taking streetscape were used to ensure this striking scheme captured the public imagination and revitalised the seafront. The scheme has demonstrated to the client, engineers and public the value of landscape architecture in ensuring the scheme surpasses its functional role as a coastal defence and provides a distinctive destination with a recognisable identity.