Runswick Bay Environmental Impact Assessment and ecological innovation


Runswick Bay is a popular tourist town located along the North Yorkshire coast, five miles north of Whitby and set within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park (NYMNP). The village is protected by a seawall along the bay with a promenade providing access to the beach. Studies commissioned by the Environment Agency and Scarborough Borough Council concluded that the seawall on the south side of the village was at risk of collapsing as a result of the rapidly deteriorating condition of the wall and a historic landslide.

Forming part of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast (NY&CHC), Runswick Bay lies within a marine conservation zone. The older part of the village, located closest to the sea, is designated as a conservation area for its historical and aesthetic value, and within the bay, there are several listed buildings.

We were appointed as designers supporting Esh Contracting in a design and build scheme promoted by Scarborough Borough Council. The scheme is designed to reduce the risk of:

  • Coastal erosion
  • Deterioration of the seawall
  • Wave overtopping
  • Flooding.

The preferred option needed to consider the environmental sensitivity of the location and the opportunities that an innovative solution could provide.


Our coastal, maritime, river engineering and environmental management teams worked together to develop an innovative solution which focused on coastal protection and ecological enhancement.

The preferred option for the Runswick Bay coastal protection scheme was the construction of a 180m rock armour fillet approximately 2.5 metres high and 10 metres wide. Our environmental team worked with Scarborough Borough Council and Natural England to develop an innovative approach to the rock armour. This included distressing the boulders and placing seed boulders to encourage colonisation by marine invertebrates.

Due to the size and nature of the proposal, our team prepared a statutory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Environmental Statement which was submitted to the NYMNP. They also prepared a marine licence which was submitted to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).


Protecting the architectural heritage of the village and its community from flood risk both now and in the future, the scheme provides protection to 96 residential and 17 non-residential properties.

Our design makes a positive contribution to the local distinctiveness and landscape setting of Runswick Bay and its rich ecology. Creation of rock pools was included within several armour stones, along with careful placement that allowed the natural retention of water to create natural pools. Trials had demonstrated that it was particularly important to have a rough surface within the pools to allow colonisation by intertidal organisms.

Over 100 man-made rock pools have been created with 20 additional pools generated through the considerate placing/orientation of armour. Distressing the new boulders included drilling rock pool features and cutting thin horizontal grooves (approx. 60cm long x 1cm deep) and thicker, coarser grooves (approx. 60cm long x 2cm wide) into the rock using an angle grinder – over 130 groove sections have been cut out on the armour stones in total. On completion of rock armour placement, existing natural rocks were placed against the toe rocks of the new structure to allow seeding of the new rock armour and to encourage fast colonisation of the new material.

This method of habitat creation is the largest of its type in the country and is based on innovative scientific trials undertaken in collaboration with Hull University.

Want to know more?

Email Dorian Latham, Technical Lead for EIA and Environmental Management, for more information regarding our skills and experience in this area. You can also visit our environmental impact assessment webpage.

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