The case for a breakwater and the development of Penzance Harbour


Penzance Harbour from the sea
View from the sea
A proposal with definite economic benefits for future generations in West Cornwall

The case for a breakwater and the development of Penzance Harbour


The existing Lighthouse/South Pier was constructed over the centuries as a breakwater to protect the rest of the harbour. 

The Harbour Users scheme calls for investment to build resilience into the local economy and has letters of support from Penzance Town Council and Penwith District Council. 

Peter Brown of the SW Regional Assembly responded: on the 22nd August 2008
“Earlier this year you contacted the Regional Assembly to outline your proposals for the enhancement of PenzanceHarbour. I have looked at you proposals with interest and can see they will help improve the economic prospects of the area in line with the Regional Spatial Strategy and the Regional Economic Strategy. It is important the region supports the continued economic regeneration of Cornwall and its towns.” 

The plan has received widespread local support and has featured in the Market and Coastal Town Initiative document, Penzance Futures, Penwith District Council’s Newlyn/Penzance Area Action Plan and their Harbour Business Plan, and has the support of the British Marine Federation. 

The scheme is in the Cornwall Council Core Strategy draft document.

It complies with the Cornwall Maritime Strategy. 

Only the construction of a breakwater will provide a year round safe berth on the Lighthouse Pier, protect the railway, the entrance by road, and station, and bring many other benefits to the harbour and town. This is the preferred option of the Royal Haskoning report for Cornwall Council.  Quote “This option would provide the highest degree of future flexibility in terms of berthing against Lighthouse Pier as it provides the greatest reduction in overtopping “ 

This would be the first stage of a major regeneration of Penzance Harbour that could include a purpose built ferry terminal, marina etc, and requires the Cornwall Council Core Strategy and Penzance Local Development Plan to include the breakwater as stage one of the harbour development plan that will bring economic benefits for future generations in the area. 

The Penzance & IOS Strategic Investment Plan Aug 2009 states on page 105, para 14 Prepare for climate change…

“certain areas including Long Rock, Eastern Green and the transport hub area of Penzance are at extreme risk of sea incursion. The A30 at Branwell Mill roundabout and Eastern Green are identified as currently at risk of becoming inundated by extreme tide levels. In addition Penzance is identified as the second town most vulnerable to tidal flooding in Cornwall. Land identified in the study as being submerged may however not actually be under water if tidal barriers and coastal defences are in place. 

Page 109 PZ5 Harbour Car Park

This is a key site and opportunities to regenerate this area of the town must be considered as part of the overall masterplan, taking into account the vulnerability of this part of Penzance to sea level rise. 

Cornwall Council’s Shoreline Management plan calls for reefs/breakwaters from Jubilee Pool west towards Newlyn to protect assets “as soon as possible”. 

The EEC funded Marina 2020 conducted by Chichester University’s Professor Emma Mckinley has suggested Penzance will qualify for funding under the forthcoming InterReg IV scheme in 2014 and the entire marina development could be funded from EEC funds. 

There is greater urgency to protect the harbour assets, the station approach and the road into town at Chyandour (already with rock armour that does not prevent over topping) with a breakwater as stage one of the Harbour Users Association plan. See

Given the recent announcement of further European Regional Development Funding of over £500 million for Cornwall and the IoS we would like to ensure that there is an entry point in the programme to enable infrastructural development of local ports which aim to generate employment, encourage trade and competitiveness and to export Cornish goods to markets etc. 

Bert Biscoe Portfolio Holder Transport Cornwall Council wrote on the 9th July 2013 “I have been very clear about ensuring that the gateway for enabling the breakwater and the eventual realization of the Harbour Users proposal is open”. 

Roger Lowry – Chairman, Penzance Harbour Users Associati

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Depends what you mean by

Depends what you mean by 'breakwater'. If you mean a reef, I don't think it would work. The reefs they have in the Adriatic off the east coast of Italy are in a context of practically zero tides, whereas here they would either be a monstrous wall, or be overtopped.

There needs to be private

There needs to be private sector interest for any marina / barrage scheme to have any hope of getting anywhere soon. The idea that one could be built with 100% ERDF funds is entirely unrealistic. That is not to say the Town and surrounding area would not benefit from a marina. If there was an interested private sector investor then ERDF funding help with a feasibility study might be a starting point. Penzance will be well down the Government pecking order for help with sea defences because the harbour/seafront area floods infrequently compared to other vulnerable parts of the UK. Any Central Govt help is likely to come after a significant flooding/storm damage event. The Royal Haskoning report on South Pier (March 2013) at Fig 4 shows where barrages would need to be placed to provide defence for South Pier. We are talking about very large, visually intrusive structures indeed (especially at low water) coming close to the shore at Battery Rocks. You can view the report here:

The key is the requirement to

The key is the requirement to protect the harbour from Easterlies. I agree that private funding will be required but, unless we work up funding proposals to attract public monies as well, we will never get anywhere. I would imagine when the original harbour wall, Jubilee Pool.... went up, people thought they were "monstrous walls" too.

A note on EU funding (from an

A note on EU funding (from an EU funding and project development expert) and its relevance to Penzance Harbour. Professor Emma McKinley has been misquoted I believe. I currently work with her on an Interreg IVa project so I know she wouldn't get this kind of detail wrong. The EU funding landscape is complex and diverse. a. Interreg IV funding consists of 5 funding programmes that deal solely with cooperation between European territories. These are great programmes for when regions in Europe with similar problems want to work together to find solutions. This is ERDF funding but it does not fund infrastructure projects. b. Interreg IV applies to the 7 year EU funding period from 2007-2014. All EU funds (there are more than 360 of them) operate within 7 year timeframes and the new funding programmes are currently being negotiated and prepared by their Technical Secretariats. c. The Europe 2020 Strategy drives the agenda for how all these funds are to be spent in the new 2014-20 programming period. d. The EU funding programme that applies specifically to Cornwall is the new Strategic Investment Framework (replacing the EU Convergence Programme) and runs from 2015-2020 (not 7 years because it is characteristically late in starting). This will most likely be open for business in early 2015. This is ERDF funding (and ESF) too and it does offer funding for infrastructure and all the development costs including feasibility studies, design, environmental and hydrographic studies etc (although there is already a wealth of existing study material already prepared for the previous scheme that was turned down by some Pz residents. c. This fund will never pay 100% of the costs of a project. d. It has to be co-financed by UK Government or private sector funding and this will depend on the current ownership status of Penzance Harbour. e. This will be the LAST TIME that Cornwall receives such a high level of funding from Europe. Residents of Penzance, this is possibly the last time that Penzance Harbour will have an opportunity to engage with a project of the magnitude and cost that harbour improvements inevitably require. There are pleasing, heritage-friendly solutions that can be found which also produce the right results for business. All I ask is that those whose livelihoods do not depend on their business growing as a result of harbour developments; let those people whose jobs and lives depend upon a working, job creating harbour take the forefront in consultation and decision-making for the next harbour scheme. 5 years is not a long time to get the next scheme designed, consulted, approved and built so tremendous focus and forward thinking is now needed.
Roger Lowry
Thu 20 Feb