Climate Adaptation Scilly FAQ

Why are you doing this?

Climate change affects the Isles of Scilly worse than any other part of Britain. The project helps us cope with sea level rise, water shortages and other climate change impacts.

What are the benefits?

Coastal erosion, coastal flooding and water shortage risks will be reduced and an overall plan for adapting to climate change will help define next steps.

What is a climate change adaptation plan?

It’s an action plan to cope with the physical impacts of changing climate. By understanding how climate change impacts are likely to affect the Isles of Scilly, we can prioritise what we need to adapt to and plan how to do so.

Why did you choose these sites?

The coastal sites were chosen because they are in front of homes, businesses, infrastructure and ecological systems that would suffer increased levels of damage from coastal flooding and erosion if nothing was done.

What time of year will you be carrying out the work?

As much as possible we’ll work outside the main tourist season – so working between September and May.

When will it finish?

By the end of June 2023.

What about delays due to bad weather?

We’ve allowed for delays by scheduling works to be completed over a longer time frame than the actual work will require. Most construction works are due to finish in the autumn of 2022. If necessary, we may re-schedule construction works for the spring of 2023.

Which St Mary's sites are you carrying out work on?

You can find ut more about the proposals for St Mary's here:

Porth Hellick has it's own FAQ page due to the amount of feedback we've had for those proposals.

Will the work harm local wildlife?

No – one of the project aims is to improve habitat for local wildlife. For example, on St Mary’s the work aims to reduce seawater overtopping into the Lower Moors SSSI from Old Town, Porthloo and Porth Mellon and to reduce seawater overtopping into the Higher Moors & Porth Hellick Pool SSSI from Porth Hellick beach. We’re also trying to avoid as much as possible periods when wildlife is more sensitive to disturbance, such as during bird breeding season.

Will the use of landing craft/barges affect the seabed?

When landing craft or barges are delivering to the beach, their propellors can churn the seabed. This may leave disturbed sediments that is visible on the following low tide. Currents and waves usually re-distribute the disturbed sediment again within a few tides.

What materials will you be using?

We aim to use natural materials as much as possible, including rocks for beach erosion protection sourced from Cornwall granite similar to that found on the Isles of Scilly. We’ll re-use materials on the beaches displaced from existing structures where feasible and we’ll introduce new dune sand of a similar size to what’s there already, again sourced from Cornwall.

What are ‘demountable seawalls’?

These are seawalls that can be taken down when not needed. They’ll be similar to the existing gap-closing seawalls in the centre of Hugh Town and at Porthcressa Beach, but longer.

Will you be using the local workforce?

The work is divided into several tasks on different islands. We’ve engaged with contractors around the Isles of Scilly, in Cornwall and further afield who might bid for the work about how best to package the contracts. We encourage local contractors to bid for the work, either on their own or jointly with mainland contractors.

What disruption will there be at each site?

We’re trying to avoid major disruption to the community as much as we can, but inevitably some parts of each beach and the land nearby will be closed while we install the works. We don’t expect to have to close a whole beach in any situation. We’ll ask contractors to work as quickly as they can to complete each phase of work, so full access can be restored to the public as soon as possible. We’ll give as much notice as we can about works that are expected at each beach.

How loud is it going to be?

Most of the noise associated with the work will be heavy machinery moving around and lifting rocks. There will be construction trucks and diggers moving along island roads and on beaches whilst delivering and placing rocks, sand and concrete structural pieces. We may use barges to deliver materials directly to a beach. There may be limited drilling required to help fix objects such as demountable wall guides to solid objects.

Will it impact my business?

We hope so – in a positive way! The aim of the project is to make the islands more resilient to climate change. In the long term the work we’re doing should lower the risk to businesses, residents and the environment from coastal erosion and flooding. Businesses will have an opportunity to apply for grants for rainwater harvesting. In this way the project should increase our ability to cope with dry periods and we’ll plan for other climate change-related impacts too. We’ll do our best to limit the short-term impacts of building the coastal protection works. We’ll talk to businesses near each construction site about the work we’re intending to do and try to limit our impact as much as we can. We aim to complete as much work as possible outside the main tourist season – so between September and May.

Can I still swim/kayak/go sailing whilst work is being carried out?

Yes, but you may be asked not to use certain parts of the beach and land behind the beach while the contractors are working there. If we use barges or landing craft to deliver materials, they will navigate through the bays to reach the beaches, but they’ll only be present for a short period of time.

What’s it going to look like when completed?

There are similar works already present on the islands. We already have demountable barriers in Hugh Town on Town Beach and Porthcressa Beach. We already have rock protecting against erosion and water overtopping at various beaches on St Mary’s, St Agnes, St Martin’s and Bryher. Some of our work will tidy up existing rock and augment the protection with additional rocks. In some places we’ll build similar new rock protection works. We’ll be adding new sand similar to the sand already on the beaches to raise the height of dunes and fill gaps, and we’ll be planting with local vegetation. In some places we’ll install boardwalks to try and protect the dunes from erosion caused by people’s feet.

Why isn’t Tresco involved?

The South Dunes on Tresco have been identified as an area to be restored but this work was not included in the funding application. This was partly because including them could make the project ineligible for funding. 

What is rainwater harvesting?

It’s simply collecting rainwater for later use at the business. It usually includes a storage tank connected to some of a building’s downspouts to collect the rainwater and plumbing to feed the rainwater into non-potable uses like toilet flushing, washing machines or garden watering.

Who will install the rainwater harvesting systems?

Once the grant recipients are known, Climate Adaptation Scilly will ask companies with suitable experience to tender for installing the storage tanks and necessary plumbing.

Who is paying for this?

Climate Adaptation Scilly is funded by £3.6m in grants from the European Regional Development Fund and the Environment Agency. The rainwater harvesting systems will be part-funded by those businesses who receive grants.