The Great Storm Surge of 1953

The North Sea Flood of 1953 was caused by a deep low-pressure system that moved rapidly across the North Sea causing strong northwesterly gales (the most dangerous winds for generating high waves and sea levels). The system, although not especially deep, moved close to land giving sustained winds. The night of the 31st January was a high spring tide, exacerbating the effects of the storm surge. 


Sea levels off eastern England were raised by more than two metres with fatal consequences. Three hundred and seven people lost their lives down the coast of eastern England.

Sea defences from Yorkshire to the Thames Estuary were given a pounding and gave way under the onslaught. Waves were so large that they overtopped sea defences; the water that flooded in undermining sea-wall foundations until they collapsed.

Scarborough’s sea defences stood up to the onslaught but suffered extensive damage, as shown in these engineers photos taken  at the time:

Looking towards the northern end of Royal Albert Drive

Looking towards the northern end of Royal Albert Drive

Damaged parapet along the Spa Approach Road

Damaged parapet along the Spa Approach Road

Section removed at the South Bay Bathing Pool

Section removed at the South Bay Bathing Pool

Steps near South Bay Pool

Steps near South Bay Pool

Rubble at Peasholm Gap

Rubble at Peasholm Gap

Royal Albert Drive

Royal Albert Drive

For more information and an explanation of what has changed since the 50’s follow this link:


Spa Coast Protection Scheme – ground investigation

Drilling work is due to begin in early September as part of a £290,000 investigation into ground conditions in Scarborough’s South Cliff Gardens.

The results will help shape the design of the cliff stabilisation and coast protection scheme, which we are planning.

The investigation work, expected to last four weeks and paid for with an Environment Agency grant, will see a series of boreholes drilled through the cliff up to a depth of 40m (131ft). Three boreholes will also be drilled through the promenade in front of the Spa. These will be up to 20m deep to determine the depth of the bedrock.

Additional monitoring equipment to complement existing equipment will be installed in the new boreholes to measure groundwater levels and movements within the cliff and will be monitored for an initial period of six months to provide data for the design of the coast protection scheme. Samples will be taken from the boreholes during the ground investigation, which will include soil samples and rock cores. Those samples will be tested in specialist laboratories to provide information on the composition and strength of the materials in the ground.

We apologise for any disruption, which may be caused as a result of the temporary closure of some footpaths in the South Cliff Gardens but the measures are necessary to allow the drilling work to be carried out without putting the safety of the public at risk. Information about footpath closures will be posted at the Spa and on Esplanade for the duration of the work and diversions will also be signposted.

Cllr Mike Cockerill, Cabinet Member for Harbours, Assets, Coast and Flood Protection, said:

“Although there is some existing information available as a result of previous works and ongoing monitoring, more information is needed about ground conditions including geology, groundwater and depths of ground movement to help determine the design of the structures that will make up the final coast protection scheme.

“It’s critical we come up with a combined solution to ensure the long term stability of both the sea wall and the cliffs, as, contrary to some opinions expressed in the media, the two elements are very much connected.”

The current condition of the sea wall is deteriorating and while a make-do-and-mend approach has worked to a degree until now, there are significant signs of undercutting of the toe, cracking and loss of joint material, voiding behind the sea wall and displacement of masonry blocks, all affecting the stability of the wall.

If the sea wall fails and erosion occurs, the cliff would become even more unstable and the likelihood of a major landslide increases greatly. If a major landslide does happen, it is likely it will overrun the sea wall and destroy it completely – this scenario was played out during the Holbeck Hall landslip in 1993. Collapse of the sea wall would allow erosion to start either side of the landslip and the cliff could unravel either side leading to further landslides.

Scarborough Spa coastal defence proposals to be taken forward

Scarborough Borough Council’s Cabinet at its meeting held today, 24 April 2012, has agreed the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee’s proposals to prepare a business case for a rock revetment scheme at the frontage of Scarborough Spa, to improve foreshore sea defences.

Officers will now continue with the study on the basis of the preferred option, a rock revetment with a constant crest level throughout the frontage with a moderate height of 1.1m wave wall, as the basis for further study.  Cabinet has also agreed to accept the Environment Agency’s offer of £290,000 to undertake ground investigations on the foreshore in front of the Spa and the slopes behind the Spa as part of this ongoing study.

The rock revetment option has been chosen as the preferred option over a stepped concrete revetment proposal as it is more economically advantageous and a more environmentally acceptable solution.

The completed study will, when completed and approved by Cabinet be submitted to the Environment Agency in order to obtain further funding for the detailed design, licences, consent, planning application, further public consultation and construction of the scheme.

The council’s cabinet portfolio holder for coastal and flood defences, Cllr Andrew Backhouse, said:

“Contrary to some reports in the media, we are approaching the point when we can no longer just simply pursue a tactic of make do and mend.  The sea defences are inadequate, wave overtopping is well beyond safe levels and will get worse and the effectiveness of these coastal defences continues to deteriorate.

“The council has scrutinised each option very carefully and a lot of time and effort has been spent by both Scrutiny Committee members and Cabinet to find the best possible option to progress with this very important scheme.  We are still in the early stages of this project, much more work, studies and ground investigations yet need to be undertaken before any works can commence.”

For full details and background history read the Cabinet report which is item 18.

Whitby Coastal Strategy 2 Consultation

Scarborough Borough Council has updated its Whitby Coastal Strategy in light of latest government guidance.

We want your views on the draft Strategy, particularly in relation to the coastal and harbour management options that have been identified.

We want to know if you think these coastal and harbour management options are suitable.

You can view all the background information and take part in the consultation by visiting the Whitby Coastal Strategy 2 Consultation page on the Scarborough Borough Council website.

Sea defence costs to be investigated

Scarborough SpaThe cost implications of two sea defence options to protect the coastline in Scarborough’s South Bay will be presented to the borough council’s Cabinet in the New Year.

It follows a meeting at which senior councillors fully endorsed officers’ recommendations to improve the sea defences around the Spa and carry out cliff-stabilisation works in the South Bay, where there is already dramatic evidence of ground movement.

Cabinet decided that officers’ preferred option of a moderate height wave wall with rock revetment, along with the option of a concrete stepped revetment should be investigated further. Both options would help protect public assets such as the Spa.

Once the cost implications of the two options have been evaluated, a further report will be submitted to Cabinet in February when councillors will decide which one they want to see put forward in a business case to attract Environment Agency funding.

Cllr Andrew Backhouse, Scarborough Borough Council Cabinet portfolio holder for coastal and flood defences, said: “The decision to endorse the need to improve the sea defences in front of the Spa and address the cliff instability issues behind the Spa is pleasing.

Scarborough Spa Coast Protection Scheme

The Scarborough Spa Coast Protection Scheme aims to provide long term coastal stability for the stretch of coastline around the Spa Complex.

The project covers the area from the access steps leading down to the foreshore at the northern end of the Spa Complex, to the slipway at Children’s Corner which is at the end of the Colonnade section in the vicinity of the Clock Café.