Abstract

Historical tipping of vast quantities of colliery spoil at various foreshore locations in NE England has changed the morphology and sedimentology of large areas of the shoreline and nearshore sea bed, and has impacted adversely upon the ecology and amenity use of the area. Tipping started early in the 20th Century, well before statutory controls to regulate impacts of activities on the marine environment came into force in the UK in 1974, and ended with the closure of the last colliery in 2005. The spoil tipping acted as a form of artificial sediment recharge to the foreshore, akin to conventional beach recharge schemes that use sand or shingle to replenish foreshores for coastal defence and amenity purposes, but creating a legacy of contaminated beaches and prograding (advancing) shores. Since closure of the collieries, however, the foreshores have received no artificial supply of material, and the shoreline in all former tipping areas has since been in retreat due to natural erosion. This has caused problems where assets are present at the rear of the spoil beaches, requiring coastal defence structures for their protection. As well as collating and analysing historical maps, records, literature and data relating to colliery spoil tipping, the coastal changes that have occurred since its cessation have been assessed by reference to more recent maps, literature, aerial photographs and new and up-to-date beach profile transect survey data from contemporary coastal monitoring programmes. It is envisaged that where sea cliffs are protected by colliery spoil beaches, and hence currently are dormant, they could become re-activated by erosion and start to retreat at short term rates of several metres per year and longer-term rates of up to 0.3 m/year in the foreseeable future.

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