Developed Nearshore Waters

Key Characteristics

    • Sheltered or moderately sheltered coastal waters, adjacent to bays backed by sandy beaches, vegetated dunes, low cliffs and almost continuous
    • Much of the coast is erosional and sea defences are characteristic of the foreshore in many places.
    • Sea floor is underlain by superficial sediments largely masking underlying
    • Relatively shallow waters up to approximately 20 metres deep with sandbanks parallel to the coastline in
    • Offshore areas and coastal dunes and beaches designated for their wildlife
    • Strong associations with maritime history and in particular the fishing
    • Modern man-made harbours adjacent to river mouths protected by sea walls and rock revetments.
    • Largely developed coastline with relatively large settlements, holiday parks and leisure developments linked by coastal
    • Contemporary commercial fishing activity is relatively intense along the coastal strip and in the vicinity of historic fishing
    • Tourism is an important focus for the local economy, with numerous visitor facilities and attractions along the
    • Recreational sailing is particularly intense on approaches to navigable rivers leading to inland quays and
    • Where present, sand and shingle features and dune systems create a semi natural character juxtaposed to a relatively developed coastal fringe, with frequent views to development, port infrastructure, offshore wind turbines and sea
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The Developed Nearshore Waters SCT extends along the predominantly developed stretch of the coastline north of Kessingland and adjacent to the port towns of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

Its southern limits are defined by the Nearshore Waters SCT which is closely associated with the largely rural coastline that falls within the Suffolk Heritage Coast and adjacent to the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. The northern limit of the SCT is defined by the study area boundary. Landward the SCT is defined by the low water mark. Its seaward extent is between 5 and 8km (2.7-4.3nm) from the shoreline, where it meets the adjacent Coastal Waters SCT.

Physical Influences

The shape of the coastline is formed by a series of headlands, referred to locally as nesses, defining sheltered or moderately sheltered bays. Headlands at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth are defined by rock and concrete defences and Ness Point, or Lowestoft Ness, is particularly notable as this is the easternmost location on the UK mainland. Elsewhere, headlands are defined by mobile features created by the accumulation of sand and shingle, for example the narrow cuspate foreland at Winterton Ness.

The coastline is typically characterised by low cliffs and vegetated dunes sitting behind sand and shingle beaches. Landward is an almost continuous belt of development following roads running parallel to the coast. Development comprises the port towns of Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston-on-Sea, coastal villages, holiday resorts and caravan parks.

This is an active length of coast with evidence of erosion and accretion. For example, the beach at North Denes is actively accreting, whereas the cliffs at Pakefield are eroding, often to reveal fossil beds. The vulnerability of coastal development to the effects of erosion is evidenced in the frequency and scale of defensive structures, including concrete sea walls, rock revetments and wood and stone groins projecting into the sea. In other locations along the coastline unmodified topographic features act as effective flood and erosion defences, such as the sand dunes at the northern part of the area around California and Great Yarmouth (the ‘Denes’).

Offshore, the underlying solid geology is masked by superficial deposits of intermixed gravels, sands and muds. Water depths are typically up-to approximately 10 metres although extend to up-to 20m in places. Sandbanks lying parallel to the coast are also notable and nearshore banks are often visible or cause wave breaking at low tide. Even when submerged, these features can be identified as they influence the colour of water locally. East of Great Yarmouth is Scroby Sands – the largest nearshore sandbank in a group of offshore shoals and is the site of an offshore windfarm. This bank is exposed for sufficient durations to provide a stable enough surface for marram grass to become established and to support seal colonies and nesting terns.

The interaction between geological and marine processes has created important wildlife areas both on and offshore. The developed Nearshore Waters SCT falls within the Outer Thames Estuary SPA and Greater Wash SPA which supports large aggregations of non- breeding red-throated diver and little gull. Onshore, the dunes at North Denes and Winterton Sands are also designated. North Denes is a wide shingle beach with dunes that supports important numbers of breeding little tern that feed in nearby waters. Seals can often be seen in the waters off this stretch of the coast and basking on the intertidal sandbanks.

Cultural Influences

The recession of the coastline over many thousands of years and presence of sandbanks that are hazardous to shipping, means that there is the potential for evidence of submerged landscapes, archaeological remains and wrecks in this SCT.

At Pakefield, a coastal site well known for its fossils, excavations have found flint artefacts that provide the earliest evidence for human presence north of the Alps, pre-dating other evidence by as much as 200,000 yearscx. The high occurrence of wrecks is linked to the frequency of coastal sandbanks. Scroby Sands is recorded as having caused several accidents, including the SS Hopelyn which ran aground in 1922 whilst carrying coal to London from Newcastle. Its rescue was a nationally acclaimed act of bravery.

As with other vulnerable stretches of coastline, evidence of military sites and structures are relatively common, albeit the density is less than along the Suffolk coastline further south. The oldest surviving site is the Roman fort at Caistor-on-Sea which originally occupied a large island on the north side of an estuary where the rivers Ant, Bure, Yare and Waveney entered the sea. Its location within the context of modern-day Great Yarmouth is an indication of how significant changes to the coastline have been in this area over the past 2,000 years. The strategic location of the town continued to be of military importance, and following Henry VIII’s review of the English coastline, two batteries were constructed at the port and it was selected as the site of a naval base and hospital during the Napoleonic War. The major ports of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft were also the focus for defence during the two World Wars. Concrete pillboxes, gun placements and lookouts still survive intact at several points along this coast, but several have been lost due to erosion.

Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are particularly well known for their fishing heritage. Indeed, the rivalry between the two ports lead to them taking different sides in the English Civil War. From its origins in the medieval period, the size of the fishing fleets grew over the centuries and so did the catches. In the 19th century the industry expanded rapidly, in part thanks to better connections to markets provided by the arrival of the railway. At this time, the scale of operations depended on seasonal workers from around the country to gut and process the catches which had to be done immediately once the boats had landed. The herring industry declined rapidly in the 1930s and the towns last steam drifter, the Lydia Eva, landed her last catch in 1938.

This stretch of the coastline displays continuity with the areas fishing heritage. Sandbanks and other features on the seabed are a particular focus for commercial fishing. Smaller craft fishing these waters operate out of Lowestoft and are launched from several beaches including Kessingland and Pakefield. Potting is deployed to catch species of shellfish (including lobsters, edible crabs, whelks) and trawling, long lining and netting are used to catch fish including cod, bass, sole, thornback ray, whiting, herring and smooth hound.

Buoys and flags can often be seen marking pots and nets.

Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft continue to be important port towns, and both have deep water outer harbours, protected by concrete sea walls and rock revetments. Significant amounts of activity in and out of the ports is connected with the offshore energy industry, and servicing dredging and oil and gas operations in the southern North Sea.

In addition to maritime trade and industries, recreation and seaside entertainment are significant locally. A string of holiday resorts along the coastline bring many visitors to the area, and income to the region every year. The towns of Great Yarmouth, Gorleston-on-Sea and Lowestoft are a particular focus for visitors, and contain  many  attractions  including piers, pleasure beaches and seafront gardens. Heritage attractions and museums, such as the historic docks and Time and Tide Museum at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Museum and Heritage Quay provide a connection to the area’s maritime history. The latter has been enhanced by a Maritime Heritage Trail leading out to Lowestoft Ness. Remnants of the fishing industry are key to this trail. The areas ongoing connection to offshore energy generation is represented in the Scroby Sands visitor centre.

Outside of the main settlements, leisure and tourism related facilities include holiday parks, golf courses, and static caravan parks which contribute to the developed character of the coastline.

Significant stretches of beach are accessible, often via steep steps and ramps leading from footpaths and roads, residential areas and holiday parks along the cliff tops. The northern terminus of the Suffolk Coast Path is at Lowestoft and a completed stretch of the England Coast Path runs between Hopton on Sea northwards to Winterton-on-Sea and beyond the boundary of the study area. Despite the built-up character of the coastal hinterland, there are opportunities for nature watching including at nature reserves at Gunton Warren and Winterton Dunes. Grey and harbour seals may be seen along the coast and beach throughout the year.

Angling, sailing and water-sports activity is located throughout the SCT, albeit centred upon towns and approaches to the navigable rivers at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. A RYA general sailing area runs along the coastline as far north as Great Yarmouth.

This stretch of coastline has strong associations with its maritime history, principally focussed on the port towns. Painters were particularly attracted to the area around Great Yarmouth and there is a large archive of photographs depicting various aspects of the herring industry from drifters at sea to gutting, salting and packing herring. Military and naval associations are also strong. Nelson is commemorated in Great Yarmouth in a monument which was built in 1819.

Aesthetic and Perceptual Qualities

Built development associated with the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, along with smaller coastal settlements, holiday resorts and caravan parks linked by coastal roads, form an almost continuous backdrop to views along the coast and towards the coast from locations offshore. Where present, areas of farmland and woodland mark the separation between adjacent settlements.

From many locations on and offshore, the morphology of bays and headlands can be appreciated. Especially dominant are the headlands created by port infrastructure at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

The ports of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are used by commercial, fishing, and private vessels travelling to quays and harbours along the navigable rivers. The busy entrances the harbours and docks are marked by buoys, with navigation aided by local landmarks. Close to shore details such as cliff profiles, streets and historic buildings and structures can be discerned, including church towers, lighthouses and other distinctive structures. With distance, trees and buildings merge to form a narrow horizon, in which only taller structures can be clearly identified and used as landmarks to aid navigation. For example, at Lowestoft, particularly prominent structures seen from the seaward extents of the SCT include the wind turbine ‘Gulliver’, and tall buildings, some of which can be some distance inland, such as St Peter’s Tower.

Juxtaposed to the more developed coastal views, shingle and sand beaches and dunes at North Denes and Winterton retain a semi-natural character. Sea cliffs and dunes can also obscure views to development inland from some stretches of beach. However, the developed character of the coastline is often identifiable throughout this SCT, for example through the higher frequency of sea defences, structures along the foreshore projecting into the sea and the visibility of offshore wind turbines at Scroby Sands.

From locations offshore, the proximity and visibility of the developed coastline limits the sense of exposure and remoteness, albeit this is dependent on weather and atmospheric conditions.