Fears coastal defence scheme could be the ‘death knell’ of town’s tourist trade
Richard Evans, Local Democracy Reporter
A coastal defence scheme for Rhyl and Prestatyn has been backed despite fears that its construction could be the “death knell” of Rhyl’s tourist trade.
Denbighshire Council has been working on the two projects long-term, but members of the council’s cabinet were asked to consider the schemes before they were presented to the council.
The cabinet agreed to progress both projects to the construction phase, using the grant funding model set out by the Welsh Government before presenting this to the council.
Councillors heard how the existing coastal defences at Prestatyn along Rhyl Golf Course are 70 years old and in poor condition and at risk of being breached in the next 30 years.
The report stated that if the existing defences fail, the flood risk to over 2,000 properties in the Prestatyn area will increase significantly.
Consequently, the council plans to build an earth embankment that follows the boundary of Rhyl Golf Club, set back from the front-line defences – a plan unpopular with residents.
As the current front-line defences become increasingly overtopped during storm events, the new defences will ensure flood water will be contained within the golf course until it can discharge back to the sea.
The central area of Rhyl, between Splash Point and the Drift Park, is currently protected by sea defences that are also deteriorating.
If the existing defences fail, the report states there will be a flood risk to over 600 properties.
Rhyl’s new sea defences consist of a rock armour scour protection, buried beneath the existing sand level, and concrete repairs to the existing sea wall.
The project will also feature a concrete stepped revetment to absorb energy from waves, a large beach access ramp, a new raised promenade, widened promenade, and a sea defence wall.
Prestatyn’s flood defences are set to cost around £26m and Rhyl’s £58m, but the Welsh Government will cover 85% of the cost.
But one councillor warned that residents feared a prolonged construction phase in Rhyl could be the death knell of the town centre.
Cllr Jeanette Chamberlain-Jones said: “Residents don’t ever recall Rhyl High Street or the actual prom, apart from large waves, actually being flooded, and they are asking when was it last flooded?
“They would like to have a date on that as it seems not to have been included with the letters that have gone out (as part of the consultation).
“It’s also been noted that they think, because of the length (of time) of construction, it will be the death knell of Rhyl, and I know that has been brought up on several occasions.”
She added: “That was one of the main concerns, Rhyl as an actual tourist facility (town).”
Cabinet member for environment and transport Cllr Barry Mellor answered: “I would say it would be very irresponsible of Denbighshire County Council not to look to the future.
We know we are in the middle of this climate change.
The sea levels are rising year on year. Sand levels are dropping. So it’s all about securing the future of Rhyl.
“Yes, the centre of Rhyl might not have been flooded. We don’t want it flooded. It’s about moving forward and making sure that doesn’t happen.
“Yes, there will be disruption. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but look at it now.
“I can’t remember the centre of Rhyl (being flooded), but I know going back years ago, River Street certainly was flooded. I was out at 2am in the morning getting sandbags trying to save my property.
“Now that is only a few hundred yards down from the high street. The sea is rising. We want to protect not only housing, but businesses. If those businesses go in Rhyl, so does Rhyl.”
Council officers then informed Cllr Chamberlain-Jones that Rhyl High Street was flooded in 1990 during the Towyn floods.
The project will now go to the next council meeting for debate.
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It’s not the last time they need to worry about, is the next time….to be realistic though, we may as well abandon Rhyl and any costal areas at this point, in ten years (tops) they will be overwhelmed with water. There is no man-made costal defence project that can protect against global warming. Its drastically cut emissions or else.