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Spa Campaign




Now at risk:-Ruination of the setting and appearance of a Grade II * Listed Building - the Spa - of unique national historic significance - being the birthplace of the seaside holiday in the country.


Ruination of the finest coastal scenery on the Yorkshire Coast with major impact on the economy of a tourist resort whose prime assets are its natural beauty.


10,500 sq metres of sand covered with massive black boulders or 'rock armour' as those supplying it prefer to call it. From the best scenic viewpoints it will look what it is  - a massive heap of black rubble stretching 350 metres in length and 30 metres out to sea from the present Victorian sea wall. Almost the entire face of that fine piece of Victorian marine engineering - the sea wall - will be covered over for ever with 22,000 cubic metres of black rubble.


'Childrens Corner' - that sheltered area of sand and rock pools below the Cliff Lift - a favourite amenity of families since the 19th Century as shown by the earliest postcards - to be lost forever under a stack of black rubble.


Danger to Children - who are likely to climb and be trapped in the boulders as the tides come in or when they are trying to recover beach balls etc. Same danger for dogs.


Loss of more sand from the South beach due to increased velocity of tide caused by massive rubble barrage. Quite likely blocking harbour entrance.


Danger to surfers. This is a rapid growth sport in Scarborough and its South bay is known to be safe for beginners - confirmed by there being a surfing school on the Spa. This activity will be put in great danger by the massive barrage of black of black boulders and the dangerous currents they will create.


Rat infestation of the rock armour due to deposition of detritus including discarded food items. Anyone in doubt should google rock armour rat infestation and they will see what has happened at Morecambe. Rats at a  health resort! Will the visitors come back?

One might have been forgiven for thinking that as the Sons have been involved for more than 25 years in consultation over sewage disposal to the sea and bathing water quality together with matters of marine engineering on the Marine Drive fiasco that they would have been consulted at the earliest opportunity on the Spa rock amour proposals. Once again it was not to be the case and by the time the Sons became aware of what was proposed, the consulting engineers had narrowed their preferred options down to either the rock amour barrage or an even bigger stepped concrete barrage.


And when did WE hear? By request from the consulting engineers dated 14th September 2011 for our comment on the proposal for either rock armour or alternatively a stepped concrete barrage and wave return wall. The comment was required by 13th October 2011. There was no time then for lengthy consideration and engagement of a second expert engineering opinion. Freddie Drabble's reply on 4th October 2011 is as follows:-

The existing stone wall is an integral part of the overall historic heritage of the Spa. It is a beautiful frame to a magnificent building of great architectural merit. The wall complements the building. Not only that, it is itself a fine example of Victorian marine engineering which has stood the test of time. I have been in this town since 1945 and have never heard of this wall being breached despite many high tides and, indeed, the exceptional one of 1953. This wall is at the forefront of old paintings and photographs. Its sweeping curves and massive stones are as impressive as the Spa buildings and perhaps more so as they not only boldly state their purpose but they have proved themselves fit for purpose. Your alternative solutions of either a heap of rubble euphemistically termed rock armour stacked against the wall or a massive concrete apron which engineers would prefer to confuse the unsuspecting with the French word 'revetment' are an insult to Victorian engineers who had the talents to complement great scenery with inspirational use of local materials. Can I ask your Managing Director, as courteously as possible, to take a walk along the South Sands on a fine day in the direction of the Spa and look at what your Company propose to destroy? Destruction comes easy. Is it too much to ask if a Company of international repute such as yours is capable of a sympathetic restoration scheme? This town's lifeblood is scenery. We need engineers with the skills of cosmetic surgeons not butchers' apprentices on this job! Your company gets paid but the town suffers a major loss. Who can be happy unless both parties are winners when millions of taxpayers' money is being spent?

Do you wish to be consulted further? Yes

Freddie Drabble 4th October 2011
Leader - Sons of Neptune

Freddie was asked if he wished to be consulted further. He said that he did. However, on further contact with the consulting engineers they would not reply to him direct but only refer him to their client Scarborough Borough Council to reply. The channel of direct communication between the Sons and the Consulting Engineers had been blocked at the outset! Once again there was every appearance of a done deal without initial in-depth consultation with local knowledge. The road to another environment disaster was well underway.


The explanation from Scarborough Council as to why 22,000 cu metres of rock armour were required on the beach was firstly that it was needed to stop the cliffs subsiding. Secondly to reduce the incidence and danger from waves overtopping the sea wall and thirdly to counter the effect of an increase in sea level due to climate change. The Council had been advised by its consultants that either a concrete or rock armour revetment or protective barrage would be the preferred options. The Council opted for the rock armour solution.


Freddie Drabble on behalf of the Sons of Neptune replied to the Council's first argument by pointing out that the cliffs were not exposed to the sea and therefore not capable of being eroded by it. 

Firstly in any event the cliffs are behind the Spa buildings which themselves are behind a wide promenade which is directly behind the sea wall. Secondly, as to wave overtopping, this is not a serious issue as is proved by the fact that for the last 50 years or more the Council have provided paid car parking places within two yards of the sea wall with no reported cases of damage to vehicles or personal injury! This is hardly surprising as the Spa is sheltered by the Castle Headland and also protected by a substantial rocky outcrop visible at low tide.Thirdly, as to climate change and sea level rise levels, predictions continue to vary. In fact the present uncertainty is such that the only clear and sensible strategy is to wait and see before committing vast amounts of taxpayers' funds to schemes which are grossly out of keeping with what is required to stabilise the existing sea wall where necessary.

That old chestnut of the Holbeck Hall Hotel slippage was naturally dusted off to support the Council's argument although it is obvious to everyone else that rock armour on the beach could not have prevented it. The subsequent Court action over the Hotel subsidence held that sea erosion was not the cause but it was due to underground water undermining the strats. To further confirm the position on this, the Sons consulted Dr Bruce Denness, formerly Professor of Ocean Engineering at Newcastle-upon-Tyne University. He had also been a key  witness in the Hotel case whose evidence as to the cause of the slippage was accepted by the Court. He has recently advised us that the geology of the Esplanade, which is above the Spa, is quite different to that in the Holbeck Hall Hotel area as the Esplanade is sited largely on rock covered by a thin deposit of boulder clay.

Since October 2011 the Sons campaign has been to create public awareness of the irreversible environmental damage and ongoing danger which the rock armour proposal will wreak on the town and its economy.

One of the Son's first lines of action was to instruct Dr Bruce Denness on the advisability or otherwise of either a rock armour or stepped concrete barrage. Dr Denness carried out an inspection of the sea wall and his Report dated 30th November 2011 is published by the Sons of Neptune on this website. See publications

The Sons have also been heavily engaged in substantial correspondence with Scarborough Borough Council; Environment Agency; English Heritage; Victorian Society; the media and many other concerned parties since the publication of the Denness Report.

The Sons attention has also been drawn to the repairs recently carried out on the older and more exposed Margate Pier where the use of unsightly rock armour was avoided and the Pier was stabilised by pressure grouting of voids with concrete. We have seen no test drilling behind the Spa sea wall or any other indication that this far cheaper option has even been considered.

In a recent BBC Radio York interview a Filey Councillor who strongly supports the rock armour scheme for Scarborough admitted that he would be opposing it if it were suggested at Filey! It has also recently been ruled out by Whitby Councillors as too unsightly for Whitby! Does anyone care for Scarborough? Well nearly 200 people turned out at the Spa meeting on 14th April this year to show they DID.

 All the concerns listed above in heavy type were put to Scarborough Council who were not able to give any answers to reassure the meeting on any of the concerns and dangers expressed. At the end of the meeting  a show of hands was invited to indicate who supported the scheme. NOT ONE HAND WAS RAISED! Such was the vote of no confidence in the Council's proposals.

Shortly after the meeting the local surfers organised an ONLINE PETITION. This can be accessed by clicking this link. You will then find the petition site so you can vote and add your comments.

To sign the petition please click here

Please Please Please go to the petition site and add your comments and encourage others to do so and particularly the next generation. It is their safety as well as ours which is now at risk as well as the economy of Scarborough.

Please contact Freddie Drabble if you have any queries.

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