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Newbiggin Bay coastal protection scheme

Over the years a large part of the beach at Newbiggin, a small English seaside town with about 7,500 residents, had been washed away to the extent that the existing sea wall was in danger of collapsing. Moreover, two decades of economic decline caused by the loss of the once-thriving mining industry and the grain port had also taken their toll on the town. The government wanted to give the town a new lease of life (regenerate the town).


Boskalis was commissioned to replenish the existing beach, build a breakwater to prevent the new sand from being washed away and give the promenade a facelift to make the area more attractive to visitors. The contract also included the placing of an offshore sculpture.


The local community was sceptical about the project. In addition, the sand for replenishing the beach had to be collected from a site nine hours by sea from Newbiggin. Shallow waters near the town meant that the vessels would have to anchor 1.5 kilometers off the coast to unload the sand. And finally it was thought that the rough coastal waters could threaten the project in the long term.


Boskalis came up with the following solutions:
  • Every effort was made to work with the local community and help people understand what was happening and why it was necessary. A dedicated website was set up with photographic and video information, and a viewing platform was put in place to enable local residents to watch the progress.
  • The trailing suction hopper dredger Oranje was deployed to enable the large quantities of sand to be transported efficiently over the long distance. The vessel’s capacity of 15,850m³ and loaded sailing speed of over 15 knots meant that fewer trips were needed. The deployment of the Oranje also meant that dropping anchor a long way offshore did not present a problem, because the ship was able to pump the sand ashore through a 180-meter flexible floating pipeline and a 1,500-meter sinker line.
  • A breakwater was created by laying 50,000 tonnes of rock on a geotextile mat on the seabed to protect the bay. The structure was provided with a protective layer of ‘Core-locs’ – interlocking concrete blocks which are able to absorb and dissipate more wave energy than a natural stone structure.


In October 2008 the project received the prestigious Civil Engineering Award. This prize for projects is part of the British Construction Industry Awards, the Oscars of the construction world. The jury report stated: “This is a first-class civil engineering project. The chosen approach to arresting coastal erosion means that the safety and economic development of the town centre are now guaranteed. The Newbiggin project is what modern civil engineering is all about: doing the job required but also benefiting the community. The project in Newbiggin has restored the community's sense of pride and boosted its faith in the future," according to the report of the jury.