Portsmouth is a low lying island city that is extremely vulnerable to coastal inundation from climate change induced rises in sea level.
It has the highest population density in the UK after London and its open space is largely provided along the seaside or on the sea.
The city faces risks, also emerging elsewhere in the UK, and these risks are similar to those found in the Netherlands.
A pressing need now exists to reinforce the coastal defences of Portsmouth to address climate change induced rise in sea levels.
Extensive investigations have already been commissioned to appraise the problem. In places the existing sea defences are now reaching the end of their life expectancy, so a replacement solution is imminently required.
- Recommendations and draft proposals have now been prepared within the constraints of the Governments budgetary allocation. These proposals have advanced to HM Treasury Green Book stage 2.
- Public consultation in 2015 highlighted significant deficiencies with these proposals most specifically along the unique, famous and popular Southern frontage of the island.
- This frontage extends from Old Portsmouth and Southsea common, which is a large public park in the west, along to Fort Cumberland, at the entrance to Langstone Harbour, in the east. There are in excess of 40 listed monuments along this front.
- The area in Southsea immediately behind the frontage is used, for example, for grandstanding of the Ben Ainslie bid in the Americas Cup trials and annually for the Victorious Festival which is now one of the largest summer festivals in the south east. It was also famously used historically for the Fleet Reviews. It has lots of character but despite its delights is in much need of some sensitive well considered seaside regeneration.
- Public objections to the recommended proposals focused on the sea defences that would separate the promenade, beach and sea from Southsea common and the city to the north. In many parts a wall exceeding 2m in height would be apparent from the land-side severing the city from connecting fluidly with the coast and blocking views of the sea.
- Among other consequences the entrance to South Parade Pier will be blocked, and the position of many historic monuments will require address.
Better more integrated solutions are being sought to add value to this public investment, leverage private engagement and gain popular public support from better interrogation of the design issues.
The challenge is to posit, through this design research competition, ambitious propositions through strategy and detail which can advance knowledge and inform practice in this location, whilst informing on-going UK wide design strategies that address climate induced rises in sea levels in other seaside locations.
The aim is to achieve a better design synthesis between the coastal defences with land-side public realm improvements that can enhance the environment, amenities and economy through better integration of the infrastructure
The Elephant Cage programme will engage with these opportunities to develop solutions from the holistic integration of engineering, architecture, landscape, ecological and economic issues to benefit the city, its public realm and amenity.