Fairlight Cove village is located on the southern coast of England, about 110 km south-east of London. The village comprises residential developments on top of sea cliffs ranging from 30m to 80m high. There is a long history of cliff erosion in the area, which intensified from 1997 when rapid cliff loss led to the destruction of a number of properties and put many others in the vicinity at risk. In 2004, landslides with overall height of 60m devastated the area and prompted the District Council to commission a scoping study to understand the nature of the landslides and to devise a response strategy.
GCG was engaged to provide wide ranging geotechnical input into the scoping study. The remit included geological profiling of the coastal site, specification, supervision and interpretation of the site investigation data, deducing the chronology and mechanisms of cliff failures, determining the cliff regression rate, and developing suitable mitigation measures. Using the available information, GCG predicted that if no action was taken, a continued rate of cliff recession of up to 1.5m per year would take place over the next 100 years. This would have placed a large number of residential properties at the risk of damage or collapse. Therefore action was necessary, but was constrained by available funds from the Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which was implementing a policy of funding only for managed retreat where a strong enough case for government support could be made. Given this constraint, a bespoke stabilisation strategy was devised by GCG and put forth in the scoping study report which addressed the factors driving the mass movement. The mitigation strategy was adopted and GCG designed and supervised the slope remediation while working with Halcrow who designed and supervised the breakwater. Construction was successfully completed by the end of 2007.