Southend Cliff Stabilisation

Working from home today so took the opportunity of buzzing down to the seafront to take a nosey at the civil engineering works going to ‘repair’ and stabilise the cliffs where a major slip occurred 10 years ago.  Despite it being rather gray I snapped some pics and later spoke to the Public Liaison lady about the works.

The cliffs on the Southend seafront – from Hadliegh Castle all the way into Southend – are unstable and have a history of slipping.  The cliffs – up to 30m in height in places – are formed of London Clay, overlain by Ice Age sand and gravel and river alluvium.  More information on the geology of the cliffs can be found on the website of The Essex Field Club here.

In 2002 a major slip occurred just west of the cliff lift that took many trees and paths with it, threatened the historic bandstand and buried two lanes of the seafront highway.  Photo below taken in 1998 before the slip.  The bandstand can be clearly seen. Photo Aerial view of Southend seafront: eastern Clifftown by Edward Clack reproduced under Creative Commons.

Works are now in progress to stabilise the section of cliffs against future failure.  The works appear to be unrelated to the planned construction – at some future date – of the new Museum which is reportedly going in the same location.  I guess there is a degree of coordination between the two projects if nothing else .

The works are being carried out by Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering for Client Southend on Sea Borough Council with design of the scheme by specialist consultant Buro Happold

Scheme board with artists impression

I was pleased to note from the information board that the project not only has its own (excellent) website ( – it also has its own Facebook page ( and twitter account (@SoS_Cliff). The website provides details of the history of the slip along with details of the works plus links to the regular newsletters and progress photos.  I did note that there was a Public Liaison Office with opening hours of noon to 4pm (weather permitting).

I had a good look around the works from the top and then the bottom.  A contiguous pile wall has been installed along the top of the site (a line of concrete piles next to each other) which I assume is partly holding up the ground behind it and partly cutting through historical slip planes in the clay.  A major earth moving operation is now underway to excavate and remove the failed ground.  I believe a second contiguous pile wall will be installed along the foot of the slope and then the area backfilled / regraded with better material.

Following my visit I telephoned the Public Liaison Officer for the project – Katie Willison (07767 440575) – and we had a decent chat and discussed the possibility of a local ICE evening talk about the history of the cliffs and the current works.

Included below are a few of the photos I took on my visit.  Further photos can be found in an album here.

Contiguous pile wall to top of cliffs
From the seafront west half of site
Earthmoving plant doing its work..
Cold engineer
East half of the site
Loading up the muck away

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