Although Hartlepool may have turned its back on the sea at various points during its long history, Hartlepool’s coastline has always fulfilled vital roles for the town.
In mediaeval times, when Hartlepool was already a major port with substantial seawalls and fortifications, the sea was the town’s lifeblood. During the town’s Victorian boom, the sea was again critical – not just for shipping and industry, but also for leisure, when the newly developed resort of Seaton Carew made the most of the huge open beaches and sweeping views.
Ever since Victorian times, Hartlepool’s beaches have been important for recreation – and other activities. Seaton Carew’s grandeur as a seaside resort may have faded, but the foreshore are still popular with locals – for a range of activities from dog walking to swimming, paragliding and even coal picking.
Until now, these activities have simply been allowed to co-exist together – sometimes uneasily. Dog dirt, swimmers and commercial coal pickers don’t always mix well. In 2004, the Council decided that a more strategic approach was needed to avoid conflict between uses before increasing activity led to real problems.
With colleagues at Cass Associates and University of Sheffield Department of Landscape, I led a team to work with Hartlepool Borough Council and other stakeholders to prepare the first Foreshore Strategy for Hartlepool and Seaton Carew – a framework for making decisions about how the coastline is managed. The aim was to take a strategic look at managing the various activities on the beaches, with ‘stakeholder buy-in’ through appropriate consultation being a critical part of the work.
Everyone agreed that it would be in the town’s interests to manage the different activities and interests that take place at the water’s edge. Effective management was seen as important tool for creating a coastline which is good for the town’s residents, good for tourism, good for the environment and – ultimately – good for the local economy.
Three strategic objectives were agreed through a workshop process:
Encourage more use of the foreshore by visitors and residents.
Maintain clean, attractive beaches and promenades.
Manage foreshore use to reduce conflicts and minimise hazards.
For each of these strategic objectives, we prepared an action plan. These three actions plans detailed the individual tasks that should take place for the foreshore to work better for residents, tourism, the environment and the local economy. Our strategy also included information on monitoring and implementation.
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