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Trust announces conclusion of harbour study

After two years of research by independent engineering consultants Halcrow Group Limited and BSW Limited, The National Trust on Wednesday 22 March, announced the conclusion of the Mullion Harbour Study and the future management plans for Mullion Cove in Cornwall.

Mullion harbour is under threat from increased storminess and sea level rise due to climate change. The study recommends that the Trust should maintain and repair the harbour until it suffers such major damage that it is not viable to repair and then a process of managed retreat would begin. This approach has been supported by the Mullion Harbour Project Stakeholder Group and the Trust has decided that this is the right approach to take. The Stakeholder Group is an advisory committee including members from Mullion Parish Council, Mullion Harbour Association, local residents, Kerrier District Council, the Environment Agency and other harbour managers in Cornwall.

The Mullion Harbour Study, which received investment from Objective One, identified a number of possible options for future management: 1) Installation of an offshore breakwater, 2) Maintain and repair, 3) Managed retreat. Option 1 was rejected as impractical, expensive and environmentally damaging, and the stakeholder group recommended that the Trust adopt a strategy, which combined the other two options. This will allow residents and visitors to enjoy the harbour for as long as possible, but recognises that, at an unpredictable date in the near or distant future, the cove will revert back to its original state of an undeveloped bay.

After Easter 2006, a programme of works costing over £150,000 will start to repair the harbour from winter damage and the Trust will then continue a structured inspection and maintenance programme, at an estimated cost of at least £5,000 each year.

Once maintenance and repair is no longer deemed viable, the managed retreat phase will begin. In this phase, regular maintenance of the breakwaters will cease and the Trust will systematically remove the breakwaters whilst consolidating the inner harbour walls. However, the timescale for the move to managed retreat cannot be pinpointed, as it depends on when and how the ultimate extreme storm event or series of events occur.

Mark Harold, The National Trust regional director for Devon & Cornwall says: "The National Trust is a charity that manages 700 miles of the nation's coast – making us the largest owner of accessible coastline in the UK. In Devon and Cornwall alone we manage 364 miles, which is over a third of the coastline. As a major coastal owner, the Trust is having to plan for the future and adapt to climate and coastal change. In some instances this may mean making difficult decisions, but we must recognise that we cannot hold back the sea indefinitely and at any cost. In this case we have been really pleased at the support and co-operation from the stakeholder group, as we have sought the best long- term option for Mullion Harbour. We hope that the study will assist other harbour owners, as climate change and sea level rise are not faced by the Trust alone."

For further information please contact Sabina Eberle, National Trust communications officer on 01208 265225 or email:

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Mullion Harbour Study through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Editor's notes:

Interviews are available with Alastair Cameron, the Trust's SW Cornwall Property Manager on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 March by arrangement. Please contact Sabina Eberle.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from the National Trust's web site:

The offshore breakwater was not favoured due to technical difficulties and costs, and also because of its negative impact on both the visual appearance of, and navigation within the cove. Managed retreat on its own was not favoured, as there were other suitable options in the short to medium term. Both the "maintain and repair" and the "maintain and repair with a move to managed retreat" options were favoured. However, the increase in sea levels by half a metre in the next century due to climate change, make the maintenance and repair regime unsustainable in the long-term.

The research was conducted by the independent engineering consultancies Halcrow Group Limited and BSW Limited and looked into the structure of the harbour walls as well as assessing the cultural and economic impact of the harbour on the surrounding community.

The research received investment from Objective One through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

At different stages throughout the study, the National Trust held open days for the local community where they could find out more information, put forward their views and ask questions.

The wave damage affecting Mullion Harbour has increased in frequency and severity since the Trust acquired it in 1945, with repair and improvement costs, mitigated by insurance claims and grants, reaching approximately £1 million since the early 1990s.

The harbour at Mullion was built during the 1890s by Lord Robartes in anticipation of a flourishing pilchard industry and was principally acquired by the National Trust through a gift.

National research commissioned by the Trust to assess how the coastline is likely to change over the next 100 years revealed in 2005 that many of the Trust's important sites are at risk from coastal erosion and flooding. We have produced a pamphlet called 'Shifting Shores', to share experiences of managing coastal change and help strengthen the case for a new approach to planning and managing the future coast. For more information visit our web site:


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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