Project overview

False colour X-band radar image showing the sea defences and waves at Sea Palling, Norfolk
False colour X-band radar image showing the sea defences and waves at Sea Palling, Norfolk ©

Throughout history, the coastline of East Anglia has experienced considerable erosion. The beaches have retreated at rates of up to 1 metre per year. During the floods of January 1953, Europe’s worst natural disaster for over two centuries, the Norfolk coastline suffered a great deal of damage. The serious breach of the sea defences at Sea Palling warranted the largest scheme of offshore reefs in the UK to be built to protect the coast and the low-lying farm land behind it.

These shore-parallel reefs were constructed in two phases. An increased understanding of the performance of the reefs following the first phase of construction allowed the second phase to be designed to provide sufficient sea defence but control the levels of environmental impact.


The LEACOAST2 (Liverpool - East Anglia Coastal Study 2) project is a 3-year programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. LEACOAST2 aims to

  • Evaluate the effects of the breakwaters on the whole beach system over two years
  • Provide enhanced tools for improving the design guidelines for coastal defences

The research is focussed on

  • Developing existing numerical models of the environmental processes at the breakwaters to include new factors such as waves breaking over the structures
  • Testing the sensitivities of several models of the local environment
  • Developing and testing an engineering model to predict long-term changes in beach shape
  • Extensive measurements of the waves, currents and beach shape to provide data for the models and to identify sediment transport pathways
  • Long-term monitoring of the change in coastline shape using advanced video and radar techniques
  • Improving the understanding of how the shore-parallel breakwaters at Sea Palling operate and interact with sediment sources and adjacent areas to provide better coastal management


Over months and years, the sea defences at Sea Palling interact with the adjacent beaches. To include these beaches within the LEACOAST2 programme the researchers use computer models, advanced field monitoring equipment and make measurements on the beach and just offshore at Sea Palling.

The field measurements include

  • Rapid Global Positioning System (GPS) surveys
  • Acoustic current meters
  • 5-camera video system
  • X-band radar
  • Side-scan sonar imaging of bedforms