Looe Flood Protection Project

It is official that Looe is the most frequently flooded town in England and if the scientists are correct about global warming and rising sea levels, the negative impact on the town and the economy can only get worse.

Local people will be aware that in early 2015, the Harbour Commissioners invested £20,000 of their own funds to commission a study by Wallingfords (who are world leading maritime consultants) to develop a scheme that would protect Looe from the effects of rising sea levels and flooding.

In July 2015 we held a public consultation which resulted in 94% of people supporting the proposed scheme.

With costs being estimated at £55 million, the Looe Harbour Commissioners realized that they would not be able to progress the project without involving significant partners.

Since then, LHC have been working with Cornwall Council (Lead Partner) and the Environment Agency to develop the proposal, which has since been broken down into two phases.

Phase 1 will include;

  • A Tidal Floodgate – which will only be closed when a flood warning is issued to prevent a storm surge or spring tide from flooding the protected area behind the barrier
  • Tidal Floodgate protection in the form of an inner breakwater which will prevent overtopping of the flood gates during tidal surges and a shelter for vessels when the flood gates are closed.
  • An Extension to the Banjo Pier – which will create a low water landing stage and improve local bathing water quality
  • East Looe Beach protection – by sealing the wall at the back of the beach to prevent tidal flooding in the town from water ingress from the beach
  • A walkway from Pennyland to Hannafore – which will provide access to the coast path and protected access off the main road.

Phase 2 will investigate the development of an outer breakwater to create a new working Harbour.

The team have now reached a stage where they are ready to seek Government support for funding; detailed designs, environment and heritage assessments for Phase 1 and it is really important that we make sure that the EA and Government are clear on what Looe thinks is the right way forward and which scheme meets our needs.

A leaflet has therefore been produced which will be circulated to every household in the Looe area, in addition to a questionnaire, which will allow people to express their opinions on the proposal.

We would be grateful if people could return the questionnaire to the Harbour office before the 25th February. Alternatively, we are holding a public consultation on 18th February at the Quayside Centre West Looe (10am to 3pm) where people can come and discuss the plans with representatives from the Harbour Commissioners, Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency and return their questionnaires there. Either way, we would request that people take a few minutes to review the proposal and express their views, as these will be used to support the funding bid to Ministers (for the elements stated above) in March 2017.

The proposal and comment sheet can be downloaded here:

Looe flood protection project pr4

Looe flood protection project – Public Consultation Comment Sheet

Outer Harbour/Flood Defence


Looe Harbour Commissioners (LHC) are investigating ways to address the tidal flooding issue within Looe whilst helping to stimulate the local economy of Looe.

The flood risk to low lying parts of Looe adjacent to the harbour is significant and this will be further exacerbated by the predicted future sea level rise.

Typically flood events occur several times a year; however, during the 2013 – 2014 winter season, these events were particularly severe and considerable damage occurred to quay walls as waves surged over the harbour walls.

Previous studies have been conducted by the Environment Agency (EA) on protecting Looe from flooding, some initial funding has now been allocated towards flood defence in Looe. LHC are concerned that to maintain Looe as a viable fishing and tourist destination additional harbour facilities are required. The Commissioners believe the development of an outer harbour protected by breakwater(s) will be an effective way of stimulating both tourism and the local fishing industry.

Flood Risk

Flooding due to high sea water levels, possibly combined with wave action in the inner harbour, is the dominant cause of water damage.

High sea water levels can occur when high tides coincide with storm surges, causing water levels in the inner harbour to rise and sometimes overtop the quay walls and/or adjacent low lying parts of the town.

Wave action can speed up the process of flooding by wave overtopping over the quay walls to lower lying areas of the town adjacent to the inner harbour. Furthermore wave action can cause structural damage to the harbour walls and structures adjacent to the inner harbour.

Surface water flooding from intense rainfall affects parts of Looe. In addition, high tide levels prevent the discharge of surface water into the harbour, further exacerbating flooding associated with surface water. It is apparent from the surface water flood maps that flood water accumulates on low lying areas near the harbour.

Progress Thus Far

The construction of an outer breakwater at Looe has been considered several times, with plans initially developed in the late 19th Century.

A feasibility option appraisal study for various inner and outer harbour development options was undertaken in 2001 by Arup for LHC. The studies focused primarily on the development of Harbour facilities and options in conjunction with the flood defence requirements for Looe.

All of the proposals from the reports were dismissed as not viable.

In January 2014, LHC awarded HR Wallingford Ltd. The contract to assess potential outer harbour options that would address flooding in the low lying areas of East and West Looe, whilst also helping to provide the much needed stimulus to the tourism and fishing industries in Looe.

The Aims of the High Level Assessment were to;

  • Undertake an assessment of flood risk and potential mitigation measures;
  • Identify and categorize the priorities for Looe Harbour, in respect to the function of any new Harbour;
  • Undertake a high level review of existing available studies and data;
  • Identify and assess a range of Outer Harbour solutions;
  • Provide high level cost estimates.

This work has now been concluded.

Summary of Aspirations of the Development;

  • Address Flooding in East and West Looe
  • Maintenance and Stimulation of the local Economy
  • To incorporate a walkway from Pennyland to Hannafore, thus removing pedestrian traffic from Hannafore Road.
  • Generation of Employment Opportunities
  • Equal Opportunities for disabled people
  • Maintain the character of the town as a popular destination for tourists
  • Improved Leisure Facilities
  • Improved Health and Safety within the port
  • Support of Emergency Services
  • Protecting the future of a fishing industry in the port
  • To incorporate Renewable Energy provision into the Development
  • Protection of existing Inner Harbour structures – Quay walls, Slipways and Hannafore Road.
  • To be sympathetic of Environmental Considerations associated with the development

Detailed Aspirations of the Development;

Address Tidal Flooding in East and West Looe

The combination of high water level, wave penetration and surface runoff into the harbour, provides the greatest threat of Flooding to East and West Looe. This threat will increase with rising sea levels, which will lead to greater frequency and severity of flood events. Flood protection measures are a major priority for Looe and the key aspiration of the proposed development.

Maintenance and Stimulation of the local Economy

The two main industries in Looe are tourism and commercial fishing. This development will maintain and stimulate new ventures in both areas.

  • Tripping/pleasure boat trips

All vessels arrival/departure times are currently limited by the tidal conditions in the inner Harbour. The incorporation of a low water landing stage and deep water moorings in the Outer Harbour, will allow operations to take place at all states of the tide.

‘Down Time’ of local vessels would be reduced, in addition to increased operational time as a direct result of a low water landing facility in the port. Allowing tripping/fishing boats to work 24/7 if they so wish (rather than the current tidal hours of 3 hours either side of high tide)

Internal trips could be operated within the safe Haven of the Outer Harbour when weather would normally prevent trips from taking place. Thus increasing the earning potential of local boat operators.

The ferry boats would continue to use the ferry steps in the inner Harbour until tide restricts, at which time they would offer a lower quay service to Hannafore. This would increase operating time from 6 hours per day to 24 (if desired!)

  • Servicing of people’s needs

The increased footfall in the town, generated by the new development, will need to be serviced, thus benefiting local take-aways, eating establishments, pubs etc. This would serve to ensure the continuity of existing businesses and creation of new businesses.

  • St Georges Island

Looe Island is now a nature reserve managed by Cornwall Wild life Trust. Trips are run from Looe Harbour to the island but are dependent on tide and weather conditions, thus the number of trips run each day are minimal.

A low water landing stage would allow many more trips to be run each day, not only the ferrying of visitors to the island, but also the glass bottomed sightseeing trips that operate around the island.

The viability of the island to remain as a nature reserve for many years to come, would also be supported.

To incorporate a walkway from Pennyland to Hannafore, thus removing pedestrian traffic from Hannafore Road

The walkway will provide an easily accessible route for able and disable bodied people and a direct link to the South West Coast Path for those that wish to walk to neighbouring villages and beyond.

Generation of Employment Opportunities

The development would create many employment opportunities, some in the form of expansion of existing businesses, others in the creation of new businesses, for example;

  • The most significant employment opportunities would be in the construction of the flood defence wall;

The stone used for the development could be quarried locally, then transported to Looe via barge. Local labourers could then be used in the construction process. Each of which would provide considerable financial injection into the local economy.

Each of the contractors and design team members involved in the development (that were not locally based) would need servicing and accommodation during the build process. Thus injecting further income into the local economy.

  • Regeneration of a thriving fishing fleet in Looe (Deep water moorings landing to the current market facilities)
  • ‘All states of the tide’ water taxis bringing people from vessels moored in the outer Harbour and tripping boat passengers, back in to the town.
  • Unrestricted ferry services from/to neighbouring ports (increasing footfall in each of the receiving ports)
  • The Harbour will become responsible for operation of the tidal gates (on behalf of the EA) thus creating a new role for a member of Harbour staff or A N Other.
  • Development of water based businesses such as boat hire, kayaking, diving etc.
  • Opportunity for ‘Specialist’ trips for eg, boat trips on specially adapted vessels for disabled people.
  • Opportunities for mussel/cockle farms to be established in the Outer Harbour as at Fowey.
  • The sea wall defence would need regular inspection and maintenance which could be sourced from local businesses.
  • Increased numbers of local employment positions in cafes, pubs etc to satisfy needs of the additional footfall attracted to the town.
  • Crab/lobster hatchery

Equal Opportunities for disabled people

  • The provision of an ‘all states of the tide’ easy access landing stage will provide an equal opportunity for the elderly, children and ambient and assisted disabled people to go on the water for recreational activities.
  • This supports the strategy of improving access to the water for all.
  • The extended walkway from West Looe to Hannafore will provide a vehicle free route for disabled people and those in wheelchairs.

Maintain the character of the town as a popular destination for tourists.

  • Improve access to Hannafore for pedestrians

The walk from the town to Hannafore (and then on to the coastal footpath) is a popular walk for locals and tourists alike. Pedestrians and vehicles are currently not separated on the road from West Looe to Hannafore. An extended riverside walk from Pennyland to Hannafore would address health and safety issues, whilst providing the link between the current sections of walkway.

The walkway would also provide an increased spend in each of the neighbouring towns by providing a ‘link’ between the same.

  • Protection of cliff face at Hannafore

The Outer break water works will protect the cliff face and ensure that erosion and undermining of the cliff due to tidal action and weather, is kept to a minimum.

Improved Leisure Facilities

The development will provide improved availability of all water based activites by the provision of a low water landing stage. This will give easier access to water based clubs that operate from the port (such as the sailing, gig and local boat owners clubs) regattas and other sea based activities that occur throughout the year.

Consideration would also be given to a incorporating a ‘natural swimming pool’ into the development.

The development would also allow larger scale water based events to be accommodated in the port. Yacht races rather than dingy races for example. This will attract a whole new ‘group’ of visitors, each of which will increase the spend per head in the town.

Potential of a sunken vessel in within the boundaries of the outer Harbour – all year around attraction for divers (scilla) support of local B&Bs etc.

Creation of a ‘sunken gallery’ in the harbour wall so that visitors can look at the sea life beneath the waves (Falmouth Maritime museum)

Improved Health and Safety within the port

The low water landing stage will improve a number of safety concerns within the port;

The Loading of passengers/equipment on/off tripping vessels will become a much safer operation with the use of a low water landing stage.

The Pennyland to Hannafore walkway would also remove pedestrians from the highway.

Support of Emergency Services

The local RNLI boats are very active during the summer months and regularly need to land people on the shore for transportation to hospital via land ambulance. This can be very problematic due to the drying nature of the Harbour and lack of landing stages.

The low water landing stage will provide a safe solution to the problems faced and will allow safe landing of casualties at all states of the tide in a controlled manner.

Protecting the future of a fishing industry in the port

  • Provision of a Safe Haven

The Development will provide a safe haven for commercial and/or pleasure vessels in times of inclement weather, regardless of the state of the tide.

  • Access and Use of Inner Harbour

Present access to the inner Harbour and quays is limited by tide levels – three hours either side of hide tide. A low water landing stage incorporated into the outer harbour would significantly increase accessibility to the port.

  • Accommodation of Larger fishing vessels

Large fishing vessels with draughts over 4 metres, currently have a very limited window to access the inner Harbour due to tidal constraints.

The proposed development would be able to accommodate 15 additional vessels at any one time, moored on buoys within the outer Harbour, where they could prepare their catch for landing on the Looe Market.

To incorporate Renewable Energy provision into the Development

A number of renewable energy options have been considered including; wind, solar, wave and tidal. The financial viability of each option will require further consideration at a later date.

Protection of existing Inner Harbour structures – Quay walls, Slipways etc

During the 2014 storms, considerable structural damage was sustained to quay ways, slips, the Banjo Pier etc. The cost of repairs being in the region of £0.5 million.

Damage was caused by waves transforming into the Harbour at high water.

The proposed development will shelter existing harbour structures thus reducing future repair/maintenance costs associated with them.

To be sympathetic of Environmental Considerations associated with the development

  • To maintain East Looe Beach in its current state as a sandy beach

The Beach (along with the fishing industry) are the two main attractions to the town.

Maintaining a sandy beach requires exposure to wave energy which is at odds with the requirement to protect the inner harbour from wave penetration. Environmental studies will need to be undertaken to identify and mitigate possible detrimental effects of the development on the environment.

  • To Improve the water quality at East Looe Beach to meet requirements as set out in the new EU Bathing Water Directive (2015)

Requirements under the current Directive are not being met due to land run offs and storm water flows. Contaminated water passing in close proximity to the beach. The proposed development will separate the outflowing water from the beach thus improving bathing water quality.

  • To encourage increased educational visits to the Port

Educational visits already take place in the port with participation of local businesses.

Access of the water at all states of the tide would allow a greater number of visits to be be extended from land based education to the water (via trips on glass bottom boats etc). Additional school trips could also be accommodated as the current trips are tide restricted.

  • To expand Environmental studies already taking place in the port

The development would incorporate equipment to monitor water quality, environmental conditions etc and in doing so, support the research programmes already in operation in the Harbour.


To address the flooding issues in Looe and to provide an outer Harbour which will help support and develop the local fishing and tourist industries.

A proposal has been developed for which Looe Harbour Commissioners seek the Town’s support and comments.

The combination of Outer Break Water and Tidal Barrier will have the following advantages;

  • The Outer Harbour breakwater will reduce wave heights in the inner harbour during bad storms, which will reduce damage to quays and structures and minimize ‘over-topping’ on quays.
  • The Tidal Barrier at the inner Harbour entrance would provide complete protection to all flood prone areas, whilst having very little impact on the town.

In addition, the opportunities associated with improved access to recreational activities, both for able and disabled people, will be developed and will encourage more people to visit the town. This will encourage the economic sustainability of the local community and surrounding parishes and ensure that Looe continues to be a thriving fishing port and holiday destination for many years to come.

We would be grateful to receive your comments on the feedback sheets available: consultation form

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