Northumberland County Council facing criticism over barriers at Blyth beachfront

Northumberland County Council staff at Blyth Promenade
Northumberland County Council staff at Blyth Promenade -Credit:Northumberland County Council

A critic has hit out at Northumberland County Council for using "awful" orange barriers to block off parts of Blyth Promenade.

The council say the move was a necessary public safety measure due to erosion leading to a drop of almost 20ft to the beach in some places. However, critics argue that the temporary measures are ugly and have meant some people can't access memorial benches on the southern end of the promenade.

The council is carrying out improvement work along the seafront ahead of celebrations later this year to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Among the change are permanent railings to keep residents and visitors safe.

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But Labour councillor Anna Watson, who represents the Isabella ward on the county council, feels local members were not involved in decisions around the promenade.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said: "For quite a while we have known that something is going to happen. In September I asked for the plans to come to the local area committee because I felt councillors should be involved because it's important to all wards.

"The briefing note never arrived. I asked again in March, but at this point everything had been decided. We know there's going to be a barrier all along the promenade - I'm really frustrated we haven't been involved.

"I want the beach to look better, everybody does - but the barricades are awful looking. If they're putting a barricade all along the beachfront, that's not going to be done quickly. "

Responding to Coun Watson, a spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: "We know the promenade is an important and much-loved feature on this section of coast and keeping the public safe is our top priority.

"Storms and recent waves of bad weather have caused significant damage, stripping away much of the sand, significantly increasing the height between the promenade and the beach. In some areas this is now over an 18ft drop creating a significant public safety risk.

"Installation of temporary barriers and signage ensures promenade users are alerted to the risk along the edge. Without these in place users may be unaware of the additional dangers posed following the storms, and safety is paramount.

"We understand some people are frustrated by being unable to use a short section of the southernmost end of the promenade, especially for those people who wish to visit memorial benches along this area. The exclusion of the public from the southernmost section of the promenade was undertaken as this was the worst affected area with the greatest drop, and therefore preventative access measures were put in place for public safety.

"However, following a review of the current temporary arrangements we will be amending the layout of the plastic barriers and installing a continuous wall of barriers along the edge of the southernmost section of the promenade to enable the public to enjoy the full length of the promenade once more.

"We are also now developing proposals for the provision of railings along the promenade to provide a permanent edge protection measure to address the ongoing safety issues, and we intend to consult on the design and location of the railings this spring with a view to finalising the design and installing them this year.

"Please be assured we are working towards making the area safe and accessible for all to enjoy once again. In terms of the wider beachfront works, as well as improvements to the play area, progress is well under way and due for completion in the coming weeks. Regular updates are being provided to the local councillors and Blyth Town Council."

Discussing the improvements that will be made, cabinet member for environment Colin Horncastle said: "Blyth beachfront is a key tourist attraction in the county as well as being extremely popular with local residents.

“Like many structures along the coast, Blyth Promenade is on the front line of everything the weather can throw at it, and I’m pleased it’s getting some TLC ahead of the main tourism season and our D Day events planned for this summer. The storms this year have also significantly lowered the sand levels on the beach creating a safety issue for promenade users due to the increased fall from height onto the beach.

“While we have some temporary barriers in place currently to alert users to the risk, we are planning to replace these and install permanent railings in the coming months so that everyone is able to safely enjoy the promenade for many years to come.”