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Monitoring the Suffolk Coast

The Environment Agency carries out beach profile surveys twice a year. This involves using specialist equipment to record the beach or cliff levels at predetermined locations along the coast. By using the same coordinates for each survey, we are able to build up a historic record of the change in beach levels all the way along our coastline.

The data analysis that we are able to carry out from the information gathered allows us to see how beaches respond to storm events and which areas of the coast are eroding or building at specific times. It enables us to calculate rates of erosion and beach material volume changes which could identify increased flood or erosion risk at certain locations. The information also allows us to gain a better understanding of our coastline which helps with the design of coastal defences and the management of activities such as beach recycling.

The East Anglia Shoreline Monitoring Group is part of a national programme of regular and extensive monitoring all along the English coast.

If you would like to know more about the national programme and the techniques used, or have specific queries, see the Anglian Coastal Monitoring website which contains a large number of reports and related information, including contact details.

The best summary of how the coast is changing is contained in the Shoreline Management Plans.

Local monitoring

When areas of the coast become subject to erosion or scour at certain locations, the Coastal Management Team will begin to monitor the situation to obtain numeric data that can be used to help evaluate the best option for that section of coastline.

For example, along the Corton Village and Southwold Town frontages, data is gathered to measure the height from the top of the promenade to the beach level below. This information is gathered monthly and highlights the areas which are under the most pressure.

In Corton this is mainly used in relation to the stability of the seawall, which could become undermined and become at risk of collapse if beach levels dropped too low.

In Southwold, this information is used for the additional purpose of health and safety along the unguarded lengths of prom i.e. if beach levels drop too low, beach recycling will be actioned in order to keep the concrete toe of the seawall covered which removes the risk of falling onto a solid surface.