Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Durlston (Purbeck District Council) report

Taken from Purbeck District Council website

19-10-04 - Report Considered By Purbeck District Council On A Review Of The Coastal Strategy For Durlston Bay

A REPORT prepared by a cross-party panel of Purbeck councillors is pressing for new local planning policies to prevent buildings being put up near clifftops which could be vulnerable to erosion.

The report says that a serious landslip at Durlston Bay four years ago was caused mainly by surface water and poor drainage from inland – and not by erosion from the pounding of the cliffs by the sea.

The report calls for an urgent review of the surface water drainage in the area of the Durlston cliffs and says this is currently being progressed as a result of an interim recommendation by the panel.

It adds: “We suggest that policy changes be considered to prevent any further buildings being constructed in the district near cliff tops or in valley bottoms - especially where there is previous evidence of flooding.

“Consideration should (also) be given to preventing the use of soakaways within 400 metres of any cliff as we understand the situation to be in Bournemouth.”

What caused the landslip in December 2000, and might be continuing to contribute to ground instability in that part of south Swanage, was a crucial factor in deciding whether any project there would qualify for a major government grant to protect the cliffs from further serious erosion.

Using professional consultants High-Point Rendel, work on preparing a bid for that grant began soon after the major landslip, in the belief that the landslip was caused primarily by the action of the sea.

However, the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) decided in December last year that the main cause of the landslip was not marine erosion - and as a result no coastal protection grant would be forthcoming.

In January this year the council decided to set up a four-strong panel, charging it with looking into “the circumstances of the Pinecliff Walk landslide” along with “associated actions, negotiations and remedial plans”.

The panel was directed to “comment as it sees fit on the actions of members, officers and other relevant parties, and to make such recommendations as it considers appropriate”.

The panel has met 15 times and has taken evidence from councillors and residents of flats in the area of the Durlston Bay cliffs, as well as from Purbeck district and Dorset county council staff, Wessex Water, High-Point Rendel and the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

Purbeck council leader Councillor Bill Trite said: “The panel has looked at the evidence and come up with a set of recommendations which seek to ensure that the council’s procedures are clarified.”

He added: “The panel’s report has now been received by the council and its recommendations accepted.”

He said: “The issue is extremely complex and technical. At its heart is the precise definition of coastal erosion. There are various views about exactly what caused the landslip.

“For all these reasons the council set up the panel.”

One question has been the extent of the long-term threat posed by the receding Durlston cliffs to nearby flats – the Purbeck Heights and the Durlston Cliff blocks are both in that area.

The report has criticised certain councillors and council staff, as well as experts including Wessex Water.

District council staff involved at various levels had been of the view that the cause of the landslip was marine erosion, which would have meant that work to stabilise the cliffs would win government grant support.

The report says: “Even now the ‘marine erosion’ viewpoint continues to be presented as near fact by all the officers we interviewed.”

The council’s coastal issues adviser Councillor Malcolm Shakesby took a different view - as subsequently did officials at Defra - becoming convinced that ground water was the most important cause of the problem.

The report now backs that view and concludes: “The landslip at Pinecliff Walk in December 2000 was caused primarily by the presence of ground water exacerbated by inadequate surface water systems” and that “marine action was the primary contributory factor”.

The panel pinpointed “a communications breakdown” between certain officers and councillors which “led to a failure to address the key issues, along with serious and continuing confusion as to the availability of grants, and as to what the policy was and what actions should be pursued by Purbeck district council”.

The report is critical of councillors in general for not debating the issue - at a point when a report on the project was withdrawn - saying that in such circumstances “the issue gets forgotten whilst members wait for the revised report which precedes a debate in council”.

It adds: “For a project of this size, complexity and criticality, this should not have been allowed to happen.”

The panel highlights the role of Councillor Julie Wheeldon, who lives at Durlston Cliffs flats, and says it now wants a standards board review of whether there had been a “minor and understandable” technical breach of the code of conduct for councillors.

The panel’s view is that there is evidence she failed to clearly separate her role as a councillor and her position both as a resident and a member of the Durlston Cliff residents’ group.

After the landslide in 2000 the district council held discussions with the county council in a bid to get grants for remedial as well as coastal protection work which would help safeguard the residential properties in the area. 

The leading consultants in the field of coastal and marine erosion - High-Point Rendel –were commissioned to draw up a scheme and to seek grants from Defra to carry out any coastal protection works.

Defra, despite its later ruling, agreed to pay the consultants’ initial fees and to pay for the works to divert a stream away from the face of the landslip which ran through the county council-owned Durlston Country Park.

The consultants were then asked in March 2002 to prepare a strategy study for submission to Defra, with a view to securing a grant for the completion of major coastal protection works.

However, in December last year Defra decided it would not be giving any grant for the work because it had concluded that the landslip was due to instability of the coastal cliff as a result of ground water and local drainage issues, rather than to any significant problem from erosion by the sea.

Witnesses from High-Point Rendel told the panel they thought that the Purbeck Heights flats were vulnerable because of the two landslips at Durlston in 1988 and 2000.

The consultants said they had been concerned that the residents of the Durlston Cliff flats had refused permission for monitoring on their property and said they believed this was a “head in the sand” attitude. Flat residents argued some of the ground cracks were the result of a WW2 bomb and that there had been no significant ground disturbance since 1988.

The panel says it was “saddened” by “an almost complete breakdown in relations and trust” between Councillor Shakesby and Purbeck’s chief executive Paul Croft along with two other senior members of the council’s staff.

Councillor Trite said: "When it came to accepting the report, four of the total of 24 Purbeck councillors could not vote on account of their absence or connection with the subject matter of the report.
"Of the remaining 20, eleven voted for acceptance of the report, so the recommendation by the panel that the report be accepted was carried. The other nine councillors wished to defer acceptance for four weeks so that the panel could review its findings.

“They also wanted the panel to receive and consider what the nine believed to be important additional evidence which, they thought, might have affected the panel´s conclusions."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Swanage Art Gallery?

Swanage Art Gallery proposal

Outline of Proposal

This proposal is for the establishment of a public art gallery in Swanage concentrating on marine/seascape/landscape subjects with a bias towards work relating to the Jurassic coast. It is intended as a contribution towards economic regeneration and focussing the town on its future.

It is essential that the gallery should show work of sufficient merit to attract visitors nationally and internationally. This is not something which can be achieved solely with local resources. It is proposed that funding for a feasibility study be sought and the owners of suitable land/premises be contacted. At present the Pierhead site is the subject of a planning application and would be highly suitable for this use.



Swanage is not what it used to be. It has evolved from being a “family resort” in the 1960s and '70s in two directions. For what remains of the UK beach holiday market it is a cheap destination offering camping and caravan main holidays in the school holidays. In addition it attracts a growing year round flow of short break and weekend visitors who are not likely to come here for their main holiday. The tastes and purchasing habits of the two groups of visitor are different. What attracts one may deter the other. A particular problem for Swanage is attracting into the town people staying in holiday cottages in the surrounding countryside as they are often not receptive to many of the town's current offerings.

Other resorts and towns have followed a variety of regeneration/development models with varying success. There is now some belated interest in looking at what has succeeded elsewhere and learning from other's experience.
A Way ahead

Documents published by both town and district councils have indicated desirable characteristics of future tourist related development. It should:

1. Extend the season, ideally be a year-round attraction.
2. Not be weather dependent.
3. Attract visitors with a high daily spend
4. Raise the profile of Swanage
5. Not harm the environment
6. Be sustainable.

Although it may be tempting to imagine that the the prosperity of the 1960s can be restored in some way, for example by re-opening the rail link, and somehow persuading families to come here again for their main holidays we need to look at how we can build on growing rather than declining tourist patterns.

The Jurassic Coast

Swanage has been designated as a gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and any proposal needs to take this into account. The actual designated area is in fact a thin strip, most of which is inaccessible or almost invisible except from the sea. Most summer visitor's experience of the coast is limited to a small number of beaches and is otherwise vicarious, coming from art and media. The term “eco-tourism” has been applied to tourists drawn by what the jurassic coast offers. This proposal is aimed at developing and consolidating the attractiveness of Swanage to this type of tourist.

Culture, Regeneration and seed-corn investment

The role of cultural investment in economic development/regeneration has been well established for several decades and it has been very successful in locations where national and local government and other public agencies have been in a position to invest on a large enough scale. The regional Tate galleries are a good example. The Tate St.Ives has averaged 200,000 visitors a year since opening with enormous benefit to the town's economy.

The Gallery

This is a proposal for a specialised gallery. There is a long established and excellent tradition of landscape and maritime painting in English art, many consider this to be the nations greatest contribution to painting. The proposal is to investigate the possibility of having a gallery devoted to these genres here. A number of approaches to finding works for the gallery suggest themselves, ranging from persuading a major national gallery to house paintings from its collection here to asking for loans from private collectors to having a series of shows of paintings from a variety of sources. Major collections tend to have minor works of well known painters which are not displayed but which become a lot more interesting if they can be shown near the location in which they were created.

A second rationale is that landscape and seascape paintings shown in urban galleries are completely de-contextualised. Because the coast and landscape of Purbeck have in large measure been kept unchanged it is possible for the viewer to visit the area portrayed within minutes or hours of seeing the painting and to a degree re-experiece whatever the artist found there.

Benefits and Costs

There are a number of benefits which would accrue from the successful implementation of this proposal.

Swanage would gain an asset used by several thousand people a week.
It would be moved upmarket

The Next Step

The next step is to establish support for the concept of a Swanage Gallery from a wide range of organisations, agencies and individuals locally and further afield and seek funding for a formal feasibility study.

Posted by Keith Roker to swanage view at 10/19/2004 09:14:28 AM

Friday, October 15, 2004

Transportation Plan (congestion charge/bed tax)

Together with the controversial proposal for a Purbeck "congestion charge" is the proposal to put traffic lights at The Bakers Arms roundabout - junction of the A351 and A35.
This will have a crippling effect on traffic flow and during summer months we will have gridlock all the way back to Swanage instead of just to Wareham as we have at present.
Not only are traffic lights on roundabouts ludicrous, obstrctive, expensive, brainless and nannying they are downright dangerous.
That's my opinion and I would ask that anyone who shares it let DCC know before they proceed. Posted by Rowland Hughes 14 October

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pier Head Plans

Planning application was rejected ("over-developed" "some concerns with architectural detailing"), but an appeal was made and a site meeting will take place on Thursday 21st October at 9.30 am and last about 50 minutes. I understand that comments from neighbours and local residents can be made at this meeting.

Further details at

Monday, October 11, 2004

Turn Vista pool private?

So what's the truth about rumours about stopping the public using the swimming pool at the Vista caravan park? And other facilities too no doubt. All part of the council's spending spree of half a million quid to turn the caravan park into a private closing the pool to the public fair? Can they do it? Is this a good way to spend the council's money? What about other things the town needs?